Answers by Marco Azar, Volunteer for ACEing Autism Baltimore:
Meet Marco Azar, the other half of a volunteer duo out of Baltimore, MD. Marco has been working alongside Rohan since the beginning of the year.
“It really surprised me how easy it was to make the kids happy,” the rising sophomore at John Hopkins said when asked what was unexpected. “For example for us, it’s about winning matches, but for them they’re so happy being out there and just playing tennis.”
Although it was his first experience with autism, Marco still felt prepared before his first session. “I had an idea of what to know, what to expect as the Program Director told me there are different levels,” the computer engineering major said. “We had a training session before the first clinic so it helped a lot,” the Libanon native explained. “It also helped that I worked with the same athlete. I was paired with Rohan as a volunteer and Eli as the participant. We became close so I knew what to do and not to do.”
For instance, Marco realized over time that it was easier for Eli when he saw visual things. “He could understand better when we set targets than when we told him to move right and left.” Marco also picked up on the fact that Eli had a harder time doing simple tasks compared to harder ones. “He enjoyed playing tennis so it was easier to hit volleys than catching the ball,” he said jokingly. He was thrilled to see how much improvement Eli made over the session noting how he could now hit his backhand. “He is also being more comfortable with us, more open and giving us elbow five.”
When asked if he had learned anything about himself through his experience with ACEing Autism, Marco was quick to answer that “I didn’t know that I was good with kids!, as he laughed. “I’m close with my siblings and cousins who are younger but it was great seeing myself being comfortable with younger kids other than them.”
As the conversation moves on to advice Marco has for any potential volunteer, here is what he had to say. “You want to try and adapt to what they can do,” he contemplated. “Don’t expect anything, go meet with the child, you can adapt to the child, and it will end well.”
So what’s next for Marco? “I’m planning on volunteering for the next session and I would definitely be interested in being more involved as I really like the program.”