Ross School - Senior Projects 2011
Mentor: Karin Schroeder
Domain(s): Fundraising; Wellness
Title: Better Life Tennis
Description: Better Life Tennis is the name of the subsidiary foundation I set up under the Ross umbrella for my Senior Project. I planned and organized a fundraiser to raise money for this foundation in an attempt to share the game of tennis with underprivileged kids in my local community. The fundraiser went extremely well and we raised around $5000. I am now using this money to host weekly tennis clinics for local underprivileged kids from the East Hampton, Springs, Sag Harbor, Amagansett and Bridgehampton schools.
I started my process back in May of my junior year where I originally thought I would do a documentary on the tragedies of the holocaust. At the time, I found this topic relevant because my father was of polish descent and, as I grew older, he began to tell me stories of the atrocities Polish-Jews suffered during and after the war. However, as the summer drew closer and closer I began to realize I was not as adamant about my topic as I had thought. Realizing that a project of this magnitude focused on a topic I was not interested in would be unbeneficial, I promptly began thinking of new topics. In the beginning of the summer I had an idea to do an environmental science project pertaining to the BP oil spill, but I figured that the oil spill would not be a prevalent topic in the media during the time my actual product was due. The next topic I thought of, and the one the finally stuck, was to do something related to tennis. I have been playing tennis on my life and have played on Ross’ varsity team for four years, making it to the doubles state tournament in my junior year. After realizing that tennis had been a huge factor in shaping my life, I realized I could use it as a means to share these salutary effects in my local community. I met with the tennis staff at Ross, specifically John and Vinicius, and bounced project related ideas off them. After 5 meetings or so, we finally were able to narrow down my project into something related to Wellness/Teaching and Fundraising. John also had the suggestion that I instruct kids in my local community, which proved to be a fantastic idea. To get me ready for whatever task I would eventually undertake, I volunteered my time at the Ross Summer Camp and John got me in to teach the age group of my choice (grades 1-4). I continued doing that for the remainder of the summer, all the while pondering how I would further narrow down my project. By the first week of September, I had my answer: a series of weekly clinics featuring underprivileged kids in my local community that I myself would teach. However, I had many overambitious goals that were quickly revised once the school year started up once again. My first one was to actually pull off the entire fundraiser during the month of august, which, with the enormous amount of loose ends I had to tie up, quickly proved to be impossible. My second goal was to set up my own fully recognized non-profit foundation. However, after talking to the senior project team in October, I realized this would also be impossible due to the amount of time left until the due date. However, I still did not settle with going through an existing foundation, and was successfully able to set up a subsidiary one under the Ross School logo. My third fundraiser related goal was to privately solicit all my funds privately, which turned out to be insufficient because I was simply not raising the amount of money necessary to afford my clinics. From that point, the tedious process of planning a fundraiser began. I had multiple meetings with my mentor, Karin Schroeder, who helped me determine the space I wanted to use, the materials I needed, and the help I would require for the fundraiser. After I had figured all these elements out, I presented my project at a systems meeting in October and had the date approved for November 14th. From there, I had to make sure my fundraiser was properly advertised. I spoke with the development team at Ross, who agreed to help advertise my project and asked Mrs. Weaver to include a synopsis in the next Ross newsletter. In addition, I had interviews with many different newspapers, including the East Hampton Star, East Hampton Patch and the Sag Harbor Express. I also spoke about my project to the High school at one of the community meeting. Once my event was publicized, I had to plan out the intricacies of setting up the event. I had decided early in the process that I would not be charging people admission at my event, but would instead set up a donation table inside. However, in an effort to raise even more funds, I added a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction to the mix (which proved to be a great success). Next, I needed food solicitations. To accomplish this, I personally went to over 7 different restaurants and asked them for food donations. Not one person turned me down, which really exemplifies the generosity and kindness of the small businesses in my area. Besides tying up some loose ends, that about wrapped up the fundraiser segment of my project. Next was establishing the clinic for my weekly tennis clinics. The biggest challenge of this segment, was finding the correct children. I wanted to make these lessons available to children who monetarily needed them, which was not very easy to gauge. I also wanted to make sure I taught kids grades 1-4, as this was the age group I was most interested in teaching. Due to this, I ended up calling the principles of the East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Amagansett, Bridgehampton and Springs elementary schools and asked them to recommend me children they felt were eligible candidates. Once I had personally received and contacted all of the children, I then had to plan out a reasonable schedule that could be met by all my participants. After this was all finished, I met with the tennis center one last time to finalize my time slot and assess the monetary cost this program would run me. Starting in December I taught ten, one-hour sessions to the kids that signed up for the program. This ran every Sunday from 1-2PM from the beginning of December to the end of February. However, my product was not done yet. I still had to write my Senior Project research paper. After my fundraiser was over I met with my mentor several time at lunch to plan out my paper topic. At first I leaned towards a paper that would focus on how to successfully run a fund-raiser. However, I soon realized that this topic did not directly correlate with the wellness aspect of the project that I wanted to focus on. After bringing this concern up with my mentor we both agreed to switch my topic to “the effect of sports on children.” I had never written a research paper of that magnitude before, so I scared myself into thinking it was something more than it actually was. I began to heavily procrastinate, which turned out to be one of my biggest challenges to overcome. Another challenge that presented itself early on was the quality of sources I needed. Even though I normally use reliable sources, finding highly credible ones that directly pertained to my topic was a challenge. After hours of hunting, I finally found solace in Ross’ compilation of databases, which proved to be just what I needed to write an intelligent paper. With that, I had finally finished my entire product, one that spanned a total of 7 months. Now all that was left to do was prepare for my presentation. Considering my product had me constantly working right up until the deadline, I could clearly remember the intricacies of my project and thus made the PowerPoint slides with little trouble. When I had finished, I showed the PowerPoint to my mentor, who approved it after a few basic edits. I then spent the remaining time until the presentation, practicing it in front of my parents who critiqued me as necessary.
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John Graham – Tennis Pro and Head Coordinator at the Ross School Tennis Center. He helped find me a job and other teaching opportunities where I was able to gain experience teaching tennis to children in my preferable age group (grades 1-4). John has extensive experience teaching tennis kids of all ages and was a great help in giving me tips to gain the respect and engage the children I was teaching.