Meet Gianna Carlevaris, a 16 year old volunteer from our Burlingame, CA program. I’ve always loved volunteering, but there’s something totally different at ACEing Autism. Through working with one child for the whole session, it allowed me to create a strong bond and see his growth and how he became more focused as the weeks went on,” the sophomore at Saint Ignatius Prep said.
Even though she knew a little bit about autism, “through attending each clinic at ACEing Autism, I learned more and more about autism and ways to keep the child focused,” the always positive and energetic tennis player explained. “I experimented with many methods such as timed breaks, letting the child run without chasing him, giving hive fives and using words of praise.”
As she reflects on her first ever session, one of her takeaways is to be really encouraging and always smile because “if you’re happy, then it motivates them to do the same.” She was also surprised “at how easily the children started picking up tennis,” she stated. “One of the children that I worked with was already hitting forehands from the baseline and he showed so much interest in the sport that it was so fun to teach him. Sometimes it was difficult to regain focus, but as the weeks went on, I got to know each of them better and what works to keep their focus.”
Gianna, who has always dreamed of being a doctor, realized that ACEing Autism has inspired her to want to work with children who have autism and find ways to help them through challenges that occur in their everyday life. “I’ve been trying to find an organization that I truly love and want to give my time to and after the first session of ACEing Autism, I knew I wanted to continue and be a bigger part of this amazing organization.
And Gianna is already becoming more involved as she will become a Court Lead during the next session, where she will help lead the volunteers to even better tailor the curriculum to each participant. But the eager varsity player is no stranger to volunteering as she is part of NCL, the National Charity League. She takes care of kits for the less fortunate, and drops them off food for hospitals or homeless shelters.
As she prepares to take on more responsibilities, Gianna is excited to work with returning and maybe new children and help them continue their growth and journey to improving in tennis. “While tennis is a great aspect of ACEing Autism, I honestly just love having conversations with them and just making them smile.” Her favorite part is “when I arrive and I see the child I’m working with smiling and then he tells me he’s excited to play tennis again.”
Thank you Gianna for your dedication to our participants and we can’t wait to see you back on court on February 5th.