This story has us all kinds of feelings. Meet Matt Miller and Juliana Simon from our Toledo, OH program, our first ACEing Autism couple! “We met through friends at Brown University and when she learned that I was the Program Director at the East Providence, RI program, she texted me to volunteer,” the 3rd year med school student explained. “We became friends through the program and grew closer from there.”
Even though they officially met in college, they realized they had been around each other since junior tennis. “We’re both from Southern California and we both played junior tennis but never knew each other, we even have a picture where we’re both in it,” Matt laughed.
As we talked about their journey together, Juliana, who started at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences two weeks ago – where Matt studies as well – remembers fondly their time at Brown University. “I was on the varsity team for 3 years and he asked me to join his club team,” she told us as she looked at him amused. She continues by saying how similar their path has been and how much they have in common. “Nowadays, we enjoy battling it out on the court,” she laughs. Matt adds that they enjoy hiking together, cooking together and clearly both love to work with kids.
Since their interest got them together, it was only natural that their love for kids and tennis took them in a similar career path and got them to meet through ACEing Autism. “I really like working with kids, my hope is to be a pediatrician or pediatric psychiatrist,” Matt said. “I’m also a really big believer in tennis, it’s a great sport where you can be competitive and have fun, it’s a lifelong sport and it shows how generational it can be.” When asked, Juliana had a similar response as to her career path and why she loves ACEing Autism. “I enjoy working with kids also, I’ve seen a lot of benefits from tennis and grew up a lot on court,” she fondly recalls. “It’s really special to have an organization that does that, especially for kids who might not have access to it.”
As we recapped their relationship, they both looked at each other and laughed then Juliana goes on to reminisce. “We met at Brown University, then while Matt went to Ohio to start Med School, I worked for two years with Shafali Jeste and Rujuta Wilson who respectively co-founded and work with ACEing Autism,” Juliana, who worked with them during her summers at UCLA, said. “So we did long distance for two years then I moved out here with Matt for Med School.”
Which prompted this question from us. Since Matt is in his 3rd year of Med School and you started a couple of weeks ago, is it nice to have someone who has been through it before you? Juliana jumps in: “Matt has a good, calming, chill personality so I think it will be really helpful for me.” Then Matt looks at Juliana and backs at us to say that “she doesn’t need my help, she is much smarter than me.”
As we conclude our interview, we can’t help but smile at how good this story makes everyone feel. Tennis, volunteering, and giving back brought two people together and we’re thrilled that ACEing Autism had a small part in bringing even more joy to wonderful and caring people.