Student service profiles: Sam Alswang, Maya Canady, William Cheves, Maria House

Sam Alswang:

Sophomore Sam Alswang, a passionate baseball lover, went to the Dominican Republic this past summer to coach baseball for his 100 hours of community service. Alswang was a camper at Home Run Baseball Camp from ages four to 12, and has been a coach for their winter camp for three years. Early in 2018, he was invited to coach in the Dominican Republic for a program that allows American and Dominican kids to play baseball together.

“[The kids] don’t speak the same language, but baseball is an international language. [Language is] a barrier, but they still find ways to make it work,” Alswang explained. He fondly remembers how inspired he was by playing baseball in the sugar fields, which he describes as “cool cane-cutting communities, for all of the union workers. They built baseball fields in the sugar fields, and we got to go play there.”

A typical day at camp was, “wake up, make sure the kids get on the bus by eight, go to the field, coach until twelve, eat lunch, coach until four, and then monitor [the kids] at the pool until six or seven. You have the rest of the day to yourself.”

Alswang happily described the effects that his service had on him, saying, “it has made me more passionate about what I have…all of the stuff that we get at home, and the facilities that we have here at Wilson.” He advises other students to find community service work that they are passionate about. •

Maya Canady:

Last year, junior Maya Canady founded a community service group called the Elephant Project. “The Elephant Project is a community service organization for high-school students to teach yoga and mindfulness at homeless shelters and elementary schools in DC,” Canady explained.

She combined her love for yoga and passion for helping others to create a resource for youth in struggling communities. Before beginning her community service, Canady spent nearly three years teaching yoga classes to children at Circle Yoga in Chevy Chase, DC. While instructing, Canady observed that the skills the children were learning were beneficial to their wellbeing, and wished to bring the same impact to children who might not be able to afford classes.

The project’s name stems from the Hindu god Ganesh, who represents the removal of obstacles from one’s life. The title is fitting, because helping to combat challenges of the children’s lives was one of Canady’s goals when creating the project. Since the start of the Elephant Project, Canady has brought yoga classes to children in homeless shelters all around the DC area.

She has been able to help kids and teens by introducing them to important skills that only yoga can teach, such as mindfulness and meditation. Both of these skills have made big impacts on her students’ lives. For example, a girl in one of her very first classes approached Canady and expressed her gratitude for the Elephant Project. She spoke to her about how meditation helped her cope with the family issues. It meant a lot to Canady that her classes could be so meaningful to people who needed it. “I rely on meditation so much to be able to deal with my obstacles, so I was really touched by the fact I was able to bring that to someone else who had much worse conditions than I do.” •

William Cheves:

William Cheves, a baseball and fortnite loving junior, has been volunteering with younger children and collecting his community service hours since the summer of 2018. Cheves decided to work with Kids Elite Sports because of the strong relationship he had formed with it’s founder, Desmond Dunham. His former gym teacher, Dunham, would always talk about Kids Elite, so he decided to help out during the summer. Cheves learned a lot about responsibility, which is a vital part of service, and life as well.

“There was a kid who liked the same football team as me, the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Cheves explained, “and we just talked about their [successes].” Cheves describes a typical day at camp as “fun, energetic, and friendly.” Although Kids Elite did not include his favorite sport, baseball, he had no trouble guiding the kids through other sports. Driven by his love of sports in general, he had lots of fun leading and advising the kids. Furthermore, Cheves learned about the difference of “when to have fun and when to get serious.” His work has provided him with a multitude of skills, which will only grow as he continues to work. Cheves has already made a plan to work at Kids Elite in the summer of 2019. •

Maria House:

Maria House, a soccer loving freshman, volunteers at Murch elementary school to entertain kids who wish to learn Spanish while her mom teaches the younger students. Once her mother is done teaching the children, House entertains them by playing on the playground or talking to them. Twice a week, she sacrifices a day to hang out with friends for a day to get a kick start on her community service and have fun with the younger kids, playing outside on the playground with them, and having fun.

Having gone to Murch, House felt the need to give back to the program and school. Her connection to the program enables her to have a special connection to the kids, as well as watch them grow and develop in their Spanish speaking. “I finish school, and then I walk to the place where I do community service. I spend about 45 minutes to an hour there, and spend that time just going to the playground with kids.” A busy student, adapting high schooler, and soccer player, House still makes time for her service and wants to continue it after she completes her mandatory 100 hours. Because of her experience, House has realized that she really enjoys spending time with kids. She recommends that students who have yet to begin their required community service find something “simple that is near where they live or go to school, so they can get to it quickly and is convenient for them.” •