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Finding Inspiration at the NSA Conference

At this year's NSA Conference in Dallas, Texas, I met Cilla Ramia, a conference First Timer who is both a nurse and a person who stutters. I spent quite a bit of time with her at the conference asking her questions, which she was happy to answer! Shortly after getting into Nursing School at Nipissing University in May, I began doubting myself and my capabilities of eventually becoming a nurse.

I was worried that I would not be able to say the long terms, talk to patients concerning their medical needs, and that I would be unable to effectively communicate with fellow nurses and doctors. After speaking with Cilla and hearing about her experiences in the workplace, she helped renew my confidence in my abilities and hopes that I can indeed become a nurse! She taught me about the need to advocate for myself in the hospitals I work in, and gave me her contact information in case I have a bad day and need to talk to her! 

Conference workshops

I attended two really great workshops that stuck in my brain. One was a General Session about a former NSA board member, Lee Reeves, and his journey to become a veterinarian who stutters. This was very inspiring to listen to. The other workshop featured a documentary film called "When I Stutter", about what it is like to stutter, and it almost brought me to tears! It really touched upon the constant feelings that accompany the stuttering when it happens, and how we feel in general about the outside world. It was really inspiring! You can find more information about it here: http://www.whenistutter.org

I also attended two other workshops for the Young Adults of the National Stuttering Association. They both consisted of a group of us sitting in a circle and talking about our experiences surrounding friendships, dating, and working. These were both great bonding sessions for everyone to get back on track with each other, and to get back in touch with our stuttering, after being apart from everyone for a year! 

The Kids' and Families' workshops

Throughout the conference I was busy running around a lot, because I volunteered to help out in two Kids' workshops. One was the annual Kids' Scavenger Hunt throughout the hotel, and the other was a "Families Career Panel" in which four members of different ages from the National Stuttering Association presented. They spoke about their experiences finding a career to pursue with a stutter. I also co-presented a Kid's workshop with another Young Adult, Evan Draine, called "Make a Memory Medallion." Similar to "Iron Man's Power Shield", we had the kids create a medallion with a picture of their favourite memory from the conference to wear around their necks. When they look down at the medallion, it is supposed to give them the courage to rock their stutter!

The First Timers' Program

I also helped out at the First Timers' Luncheon because I am an ambassador for the First Timers' Program. I help the people who are at the conference for the first time by directing them to workshops, answering their questions, giving them advice about the conference, etc.. I am also a part of the National Stuttering Association Mentoring Program where I am a mentor for a 12 year old girl from New York who stutters (unfortunately she could not make it to the conference this year.) I have Skyped with her periodically over the last 7 months, and we have gotten to know each other rather well. At the conference we had a lunch for the NSA Mentoring Program where we played games and had the opportunity to meet our "mentees", and other "mentees" in person!

I obviously have trouble saying no anywhere I go when it comes to helping people out!

Alexandra D'Agostino is the Social Media director for the Canadian Stuttering Association. She just moved to Toronto and is studying to be a nurse. Along with Board Member Casey Kennedy, she helped represent the CSA at the 2017 National Stuttering Association conference.

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