Point #60: Al D Scholars

Ken Seyler

I have been a professional body piercer for almost 20 years, and have been attempting to attend the APP Conference for approximately the last 10 years. Due to one thing or another, I have never been able to attend. I had heard of the Al D. Scholarship, but I never believed that I might be able to receive it. This year, due to some prodding from friends in the industry, and a stern “you must!” from someone I dearly love and respect. I threw my hat in the ring.

The application process was fairly simple and straightforward; the most nerve wracking part was the telephone interview process. I’m confident in my speaking skills and my ability to express myself clearly. Knowing that I was being interviewed by some of the people that I look up to could be a little disconcerting. However, I managed to make my way through it relatively unscathed, and so the waiting began.

As I waited to hear whether I had been chosen or not, I found myself believing that I wouldn’t be selected. I thought I would be passed over for someone more deserving, or who was younger or newer in the industry. I fully expected not to be chosen. When I did get the phone call saying that I had been accepted, I was in a state of shock. My boss said that my face went white and my jaw dropped open. I was completely astounded that I had gotten it, and I could have wept because I was so thankful and grateful. Truth be told, I still feel that way.

I had been accepted and there began my nerves. I had to deal with all of the new, important information about what was expected of me as an Al D. Scholar. I was also going to be doing my very first guest spot in a studio two provinces away while my home was in the process of being sold, while looking for a new place to live. Needless to say I was pretty stressed, but I was also super excited to be going to Vegas.

Time flew by and the next thing I knew I was on my way: nervous, exhilarated,tired, and a little bit frightened. After I got myself settled I was off to find Caitlin and the other volunteers; I expected to be put straight to work. Before I knew it my day of work was finished, my fears eased, and the nervousness began to melt away.  Finally came the chance to meet and talk with people I had only ever met over the internet. I was taken aback by how friendly and personable everyone was, a sign of a great week to come.

The following day was a blur of meetings and introductions as we prepared for the of Conference. Although I was kept very busy I just could not shake the surreal feeling I had, this was a dream come true. In fact, I found it difficult to fully absorb the fact that I was finally involved in something that I had wanted to do for years. The absolute clincher was when I was introduced to Jim and Drew Ward. I truly had a surreal moment when I shook Jim’s hand. I can remember thinking, “Oh my God, I’m shaking hands with Jim Ward…JIM WARD!!!” That moment will live with me forever.

The rest of the week was just one fabulous experience after another. From getting to meet and talk with piercers that I have looked up to for ages to taking the courses offered, absorbing so much new knowledge, or in a few cases, and also having the confirmation that I had been doing things correctly all along. The sense of camaraderie among the volunteers, the laughs— oh the laughs—the tears, being exhausted, everything was so much more than I had ever imagined.

I could ramble on and on and on about everything that I experienced during my first APP Conference. Instead, I will sum it up by saying applying for the Al D. Scholarship was the best thing I have ever done. It kicked my passion for body piercing into overdrive, allowed me to make some fantastic new friends, and it made me a part of a family bigger than I could have imagined. I cannot thank the committee that chose me enough. I am still humbled and grateful for the opportunity that I was given. I would certainly love to come back next year not only as a volunteer but as an APP member.

Monica Sabin

Never has a single week impacted me as much as attending the APP Conference as an Al D. Scholarship recipient. It was an almost unreal experience that was over before I knew it. This was my second year attending conference, and it was substantially better than my previous year, in which I was not a volunteer.

I believe Caitlin (who you will get to know very well while volunteering, if you don’t know her already) put it best when she said that I was now part of a family. It is very much that way. It was a lot of work, at times having to choose sleep over partying, learning to think on my feet, and  adapt to the circumstances at hand. However, If you can handle that, then you will reap the many benefits. One such benefit is the amount of love and support that people put out during the week in Las Vegas. My volunteer position this year allowed me to meet so many more people and form even deeper connections than I anticipated. These connections showed me that Conference will be what you make of it. By paying attention and asking the right questions at the right times, you’ll learn great tips, tricks, and what quality shops may be hiring. In this process you will make friends around the world, building a great network for your future career.

Being at Conference was such a high of amazing nonstop feelings, that coming home doesn’t compare. Yes, I missed my bed and I missed my friends, but arriving home was such a haze for me. I missed everyone at Conference and the energy of it all. Now it is time to take that intensity and energy and apply it to my piercing career. I cannot be thankful enough for those who helped me get to where I am in my career, and those who put faith in me by awarding me the AL D. Scholarship. One thing is for certain, I will be back next year, and I hope that I can join my piercing family again in volunteering and contributing to helping others have an amazing conference experience.

Andru Rogge

Conference is a lot like summer camp. You’re nervous and afraid to go, but once you get there you never want it to end. This was my third year attending Conference. I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see Conference through three different lenses. I have been as a fresh-faced and new apprentice, as a piercer, and this year as a volunteer and scholar.

It was an honor to be chosen as an Al D. scholar, and I had an utterly amazing experience, which pushed me out of my “turtle shell” as Caitlin put it. I came home with a fire in my belly to make positive changes, big and small, as well as a desire to share the things I had learned with my shop family.

It was a great comfort knowing that there are still so many people out there like myself who have total love and passion for our industry and what we do. I also felt a deep sadness knowing that APP always comes to an end and we all have to head back to our respective corners of the  world. There was so much laughter and enough memories to last a lifetime. It was a whirlwind of fun, work, and sleep deprivation all adding up to pure raw exhaustion. However, it was worth it every minute; I feel like I grew in many ways and for that I am truly thankful.

I now have a better understanding of all the hard work, sweat, tears, and endless amounts of time that Caitlin, the Board members, and volunteers put into making every year the best it can be. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me be a part of this experience. I can’t wait for next year.

Bree Grant

From the moment I set foot into the hotel at the APP 2012 Conference, there was an electricity in the air. I must admit, since this was my first APP Conference, that it was a bit overwhelming (not to mention somewhat intimidating being in the same place as so many talented, like-minded, and beautiful people).

Receiving the Al D. scholarship definitely changed my life for the better, it was a dream come true. I had the chance to meet so many people whom I respect and could not wait to learn from. Just being able to talk shop with the other attendees was an eye-opening experience. Before I became an Al D. scholar, I never knew that working so hard could be so much fun.

If I had to give advice to anyone coming to Conference for the first time, it would be to come out of your shell and take advantage of all the knowledge people have to share. It may be intimidating seeing people who you may have admired from afar, but I urge you, take a deep breath, and go introduce yourself. You never know who you may meet or what you may learn.

There are so many reasons why Conference is worth the time and money to attend. The classes and workshops are exceptional, and full of useful knowledge. Even for those who are seasoned veterans in the industry, there is always something to be learned. The exposition speaks for itself, which is good as it may leave you speechless. There is more gorgeous jewelry than you could shake a stick at. At APP you will find the people are amazing, the learning is world class, and the fun, well it never stops. Volunteering for Conference was definitely an exceptional experience and I would do it all again in a second.

Edward “Ned” McCarthy

If I had to describe my first Conference experience, I would have to say it was quite possibly the most influential week of my life. It was a rollercoaster of a week full of ups, downs, and surprises. I had the incredible opportunity to meet and bond with some of the most amazing friends that I will be able to grow and learn with for a lifetime. It was not necessary to stand with groups of people or be involved in conversation, I felt love even just standing in the middle of the conference hall. Being able to watch every person in attendance smiling, loving life, made this whole opportunity worthwhile to me.

I also had the opportunity to learn some amazing techniques from some of the most talented practitioners in our industry and to learn directly from my role models. I came away from this weeklong conference not only with thoughts of applying the techniques but how I work within this industry, as well as how to be a better person. I feel more level headed, confident and an all around happier since I have returned home. I will be back again every single year that it is physically possible for me to attend. It is an experience that I will look forward to every single year. I would not trade that week for anything in the world.  

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| Placed by Dann Berg