A group of nine teenagers from the Derryfield School and the Manchester area have taken on the new role of Mindful Mentor. These "teens who want to lead" are volunteering forty hours during their summer vacation!
The process of becoming a Mindful Mentor involves submitting a thoughtful application about what they hope to achieve with groups of 5-7 "littles" on the tennis courts and yoga mats. Some excerpts of their responses are:
"I would like to pass on a sense of fun and enjoyment of the game of tennis as it has been such a positive sport in my life growing up. I also like to teach tennis skills and help people improve their games, and feel good about their participation."
"An influence I want to have on my little is to be able to pass on my love for tennis to them, but also to help teach and cultivate ideas of confidence through sports, having a team-first mentality, developing friendships, learning that hard work pays off, and most importantly having fun."
"I love working with little kids especially because I am in that position to influence them. I hope to have an influence on these kids to make them happier, stronger, and more confident in themselves. I think I can help these kids to grow to be the people they want to be and not worry about what other people think of them. Individuality is so important in our world and yet some people try to blend in and hide their individuality which I think is something that society has created as a norm. I want these kids to be themselves always, and I think I can help them grow as people. That's part of the reason I love tennis as well, because it is such a fun sport but also teaches many useful life skills."
Once accepted into the Mindful Mentor program, teens complete 8 hours of training in the areas of assistant tennis coaching, social-emotional learning, triple-empowerment style mentorship, and proactive inclusion. One teen was unable to attend part of the training, so was given the unique task to makeup his missed work by reading through some Advantage Kids content - primarily, Executive Director speeches from past events. He then wrote an essay to describe what he understands to be our purpose and impact with the kids.
Here is an excerpt from the essay by young Jake Matarese:
"The Advantage Kids Foundation is a fantastic opportunity for kids to overcome, as Ms. Boles called it, the 'poverty mentality.' ... [The kids] may lack structure, education, and discipline to develop healthy habits, so their nutrition, exercise, and sleep may be lacking, if not already from excess stress.
... This is why Advantage Kids stands out to me from other programs. Instead of just working to alleviate the product of these kids’ hardship by giving families aid, the service builds the necessary character to empower them. A combination of social-emotional learning with tennis and yoga have proven to reverse all this trauma. Learning tennis can be difficult, requiring persistence, dedication, and determination. Playing tennis through frustration, while losing, or tight matches requires mental stamina, resilience, focus, and respect.
... As someone who grew up surrounded by tennis, I am very excited to instill a similar passion with the players, and as someone new to yoga I am excited to learn the art alongside them."
Yesterday, the Mindful Mentors met their pods of littles at the Derryfield School for the first time after completing their training. The room was filled to the brim with families, littles, coaches, yogis, and Mentors - and at the end of the day, a round of applause could be heard down the hall.