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9 L E A D E R S H I P Leadership Conference 2017 E nthusiasm and excitement filled the air at the 2017 Opticians Association of America (OAA) State Leadership Conference in beautiful Savannah, GA. Nearly 170 participants (the largest turnout ever) came from across America, including 30 students and apprentices. Before the start of the conference on Thursday morning, the Branding Committee, the National Federation of Opticianry Schools, ABO-NCLE and the Collaboration Committee conducted meetings. The Branding Committee reported that it continues its mission of educating the public by defining the role of opticians as well as promoting the American Optician. Last year they successfully introduced infomercials in movie theaters in selected states as well as billboard advertisements in a couple of states. The Vision of Hope Foundation seems to have taken on a life of its own; focusing on mission trips, education and its antique eyeglass collection, some of which is displayed in Southbridge, MA. The Planning Committee is gathering information on mission trips to Silly, India and Swaziland, South Africa. The Educational Committee announced that beginning this summer, they will be offering grants to second-year opticianry students attending NFOS programs. This grant has been named The Vision of Hope Foundation Grant in honor of Russell Fritz, Sr. Second-year students can apply online . Congratulations to Sue Shire from Michigan who was named 2017 State Leader of the Year, and to Eric Williams of Vermont, who accepted the award for the 2017 State Website of the Year. The Fundraising Committee did a wonderful job providing items for the silent auction as well as orchestrating a live auction with educator Laurie Pierce from Florida acting as auctioneer. Between the live auction, silent auction and raffle tickets sold by students during our general sessions, we donated more than $12,000 to the Vision of Hope Foundation. Thanks to the many volunteers who facilitated the interesting and informational breakout sessions. From Roberts Rules to mentoring new leaders, attendees came away with enthusiasm and a renewed sense of hope for growth within their state societies. It was also rewarding to see the students and apprentices absorb the course information designed specifically for them. I would like to thank the National Federation of Opticianry Schools and ABO-NCLE for joining us again this year. Thanks also goes to OAA President Sandy Brown (KY), Executive Director Chris Allen (TN), Fundraising Chair Sue Shire (MI), and Leadership Co-Chair Donna Hatch (WA), as well as the many volunteers from across the country who helped make this Leadership Conference one attendees will not soon forget. Thank you all for your continued devotion and passion, which keeps this organization growing! CLICK HERE to see photos from the event. Denyse C. Gauthier is the Chair of the 2017 OAA State Leadership Conference.