by Shannon Northorp, South Florida Chapter Scholar

In 2011, I became a member of GPA and quickly learned that GPA was my go to professional development resource. At that time, there was not a local chapter that I could get involved in. Fast forward a couple of years and the Broward County Chapter became the South Florida Chapter. The president at the time, Alan Tiano, incorporated technology into the meetings allowing all of South Florida to participate in a local chapter from the comfort of their office. Despite being over a hundred miles away from the majority of the members, I was welcomed into the Chapter via WebEx. In November 2015, I was elected the Chapter’s Treasurer. I have remained in that role for the past two years.

Attending the GPA conference is never a given for myself and my organization. It all depends on the budget during any given year. Knowing that our Department was making cuts to the budget and restricting travel (especially out of state), I knew that without a scholarship, my chances of attending the conference were slim to none. Professional development is important in our profession, and I was in need of some. Fortunately, my Chapter funds up to two scholarships for South Florida members through the GPF. So, I went for it.

Next thing I knew I was making travel arrangements and picking out what workshops I wanted to attend. I don’t know about you, but there were so many workshops that interested me, I wish I were able to clone myself to attend several workshops at one time. I did the next best thing, my chapter colleagues, as well as, other conference attendees, and I shared workshop information during the breaks and at the end of the day. Having all the workshop materials online was/is a great resource to learn, long after the conference is over. Just as technology was an intricate part of my involvement with my chapter, the new conference app, allowed me to be all in at the conference. The app allowed me to connect with other attendees; pick out my workshops; map out where I was going; check in to my workshop; complete workshop evaluations; and so much more right at my fingertips on my smartphone.

I came back rejuvenated with new ideas and goals for the year. When you are the only grant writer in your organization, attending the national conference with ‘your people’ provides an invaluable experience to learn, share and grow, that you can’t get elsewhere. I am grateful to the South Florida Chapter and GPF, for this opportunity, and I am a better grant professional for attending the 2017 National GPA Conference.