Meet Anya Rammohan, a 15 year old volunteer from our Thousand Oaks program. Tennis being a huge part of her life, she was excited to find something where she could share that passion. “This experience made me realize how much I love working with kids on the spectrum,” the bubbly high schooler shared.
When she was 12 years old, Anya helped kids on the spectrum with PE related exercises so that experience combined with her love of tennis were a perfect match. But she still was a little bit anxious before starting. “I was definitely a bit nervous, but it got a lot easier when I met the other volunteers and the kids and it became a fun experience.” she happily recalls. “It’s definitely a bit nerve wracking, I just wanted to make the kid I worked with feel comfortable. But his parents were really helpful so I felt more comfortable.”
Anya continues by explaining that every time Julian came in, she checked in with his parents to see how his day was. “His parents would help a lot, I learned what he liked best such as direct directions, being able to talk to them helped me tailor what he needed that day.”
When asked if anything stood out to her, she was pleasantly surprised with the fact that once the kids were comfortable, they opened up so much. “It was a pretty good marker of how the volunteers are doing,” she laughed. “Sometimes Julian would come to tennis a little bit tired or down and then we would start warming up and he would perk up, and smile and laugh.”
As she got to know Julian, she also realized that she was learning a lot about herself. “I learned that it can be so fulfilling to see other people so happy and I never fully understood it until now.” she said with a little chuckle in her voice. “Seeing Julian’s parents so happy and seeing him so happy even when he was having a bad day, it’s a big deal to have this kind of happiness.” She then continued on by explaining that she also developed more creativity in how to demonstrate things. “I had to come up with new ways to demonstrate and explain things,” she remembered. “You have to try different things for different situations when what you’re doing is not working.”
As we get toward the end of the interview, she fondly remembers how far Julian has come in just six weeks. “At the beginning, we were teaching him how to hold a racquet, where to stand, and at the end he could hit a forehand, backhand volleys and start rallies,” she excitedly told us.
Looking back on her experience, she remembers the jitters, the nervousness at the beginning but most of all, “you have these great memories to look back on. You’re all working toward the same goal, and each step is so fun to be a part of and you’re all working through the obstacles together.”
She ends with this message: “Don’t second guess yourself, it’s incredible and I can’t wait for the next session!”