Meet first time Program Directors, Marie-France Isabelle and Sam Zwillinger, from our Tucson, AZ. program. They might be first time Program Directors, but both were volunteers before and stepped up to lead the program. “I knew it’s a wide spectrum but it was very interesting to see how different everyone was and figure out how to help them based on their specific needs,” Sam, who is applying to graduate school for speech pathology said.
“My mom was a speech pathologist, and that’s how I got interested in my major, speech language and hearing sciences,” the University of Arizona student chuckled. The senior had never led a group before but “ it’s been something I’ve learned and it’s been a great experience,” Sam, who wants to work with children, said laughing.
For Marie-France, her connection to autism hits home too. “I have a cousin in Europe and one of her kids is on the spectrum, so I wanted to learn more,” the french native explained. “When I took over, I was a little uneasy but after meeting with Rachel and doing our training, I felt better. I love it, I love the kids and I love the parents!”
Marie-France, who has been so happy to go every Sunday, enjoys all the personalities on court. When asked how she felt before her first volunteer clinic, she laughed then said “I had no expectation at first but after the first clinic, I told myself to back up, and at the heart, they were just children, and it made it easier for me to take them as their personality.” And some of them have touched her so much that it made her emotional talking to her husband about them.
Looking back at her first clinic as a Program Director, Sam was worried about being able to personalize the lessons, “but I think I’ve found ways to do it once they go with their volunteers,” the bubbly brunette shared. “After the first session, I really wanted to focus on how I can help them improve each week, make transitions quick so we can make some progress.”
In order to do that, both Program Directors are looking forward to hosting more athletes so they can rally together and socialize even more. “I’m looking forward to seeing them, and at the end of each week for them to have fun,” Marie-France, who jokingly said she happily gave up her 9am Sunday tennis to join ACEing Autism.
Thank you to both of them for their dedication to our mission and for working hard to provide a happy and inclusive environment.