William Woodall8th Grade
Thoreau said, “Be not simply good; be good for something.” A group of Laurel Springs students are following this advice in their Washington, D.C. community. By reaching out to younger children in their local area to share what they love, our students are learning what it means to volunteer in a meaningful, authentic way.
Partnering with the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, MD, the Game On program based in Washington, and the Advantage Prince George’s program in Maryland, uses tennis-focused activities to reinforce basic Math and English skills. The programs pair middle and high school students who train at JTCC with local elementary-aged students. The younger children learn the rudiments of tennis, and also participate in an accredited education program called ACE (Academic Creative Engagement). Melanie Wright, Community Outreach Manager at JTCC, says that their programs are serving about 400 students in 13 locations. “We want to grow the game of tennis, and give kids from underserved backgrounds a chance to participate in an activity they might not, under typical circumstances, be exposed to.”
Eighth grade Laurel Springs student William Woodall trains at JTCC and participates in the Game On program with children at Cleveland Elementary School in Washington, D.C. He said, “I try to inspire them to do great things in the future.” Melanie Wright said, “Students have the opportunity to give back, and pay it forward. Our students have had a lot of opportunities, and when they have a chance to go out and work with kids in their community who haven’t had these opportunities, it’s very meaningful.”
William related a recent experience from one of his Game On sessions. “I was introduced to a student who was in a wheelchair, and I helped him for most of the time I was there. Another time, I returned to the school, and when I arrived in the gym, he recognized me and came over to see me with excitement. He asked me if I would be working with him. I agreed with pleasure, and we had a great time. When I saw how happy he was to see me, I realized how important I was to him and really gave my maximum effort with him and with the other students. This is why community service is so important to me.”
This type of community service program develops leadership skills, and captures the mission of what JTCC and Laurel Springs envision for their students: children who strive to meet their own goals while making the world a better place.