The success of ThinkFirst programs lies in one of our most powerful prevention and education strategies: partnering with individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury to visit students right in their classrooms. These individuals are known as ThinkFirst VIPs - Voices for Injury Prevention. VIPs talk directly with students about their personal story: how their injury occurred, how it has affected them and how it could have been prevented. Students learn how easily one decision can lead to life-altering consequences, such as paralysis or brain impairment, that can change a person's life forever.
ThinkFirst chapter directors recruit and coach VIPs to join them as ThinkFirst presenters: the science and safety tips are presented by the health educator and the personal testimony is given by a VIP. Student evaluations show that 'hearing from someone who has been injured' is a leading factor in improving one's safety habits. As a team, the information they share:
- increases students' knowledge about the brain and spinal cord, risk factors and their ability to protect themselves
- changes attitudes abouts taking safety measures seriously, such as putting the phone away while driving or wearing a bicycle helmet
- encourages behavior change, like buckling up every time they are in a vehicle
Working as a VIP also builds personal skills as a public speaker and as an advocate for injury prevention. At the local chapter level there are opportunities for mentoring others who have been injured or working with chapters at their community safety events. Nationally, the ThinkFirst Foundation has an active VIP Leadership Council that has been instrumental in the development of ThinkFirst educational videos and materials.
Whether convincing a child to wear a helmet, empowering a teenager to buckle a seatbelt, or offering hope and meaning to an individual with a brain or spinal cord injury, ThinkFirst VIPs add a critical component to our programs, and are valued members of our chapters and our organization.
Become a VIP!
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a VIP speaker, please see our Chapter Directory to contact a chapter near you. Chapters with openings for VIP speakers will ask you to schedule an interview. Chapters are looking for people who:
- Are able to be a responsible representative of ThinkFirst and their chapter
- Are able to openly discuss their lives and the aspects of their disability
- Are usually young adults who were injured as teens, so teen audiences identify with their circumstances
- Have a reliable means of transportation for getting to and from schools
- Have a flexible schedule, and are available days for presenting during school hours
Other ways to get involved with ThinkFirst
If you would like to be involved in ways other than school presentations, please consider:
- Volunteering your time with a local chapter at health and safety events
- Donating to the ThinkFirst Foundation or your local chapter
- Offering your skills in other areas such as research, IT, design, writing or other areas of expertise
We appreciate your interest in ThinkFirst!