MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation: Helping Children Reach Their Goals

By Sarah Kirkwood

IMG_0280What are you passionate about?  Is it keeping the waterways in your community clean?  There’s a nonprofit for that.  Is it providing food, shelter and clothing to the homeless?  There are several nonprofits for that.  Is it rescuing or providing a home for abandoned animals?  There’s a nonprofit for that.  Is it helping children reach their goals, get the most out of their education and build their self-confidence through sports? There’s a nonprofit for that- the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation.  Our after school program targets the city’s most underserved youth, and I am fortunate enough to be a part of its work and success.

MaliVai started giving tennis lessons to underprivileged youth with the goal of introducing kids in Jacksonville’s urban core to a non-traditional sport.  For most of these children, basketball and football are the sports to play.  By exposing them to tennis, we teach our students a unique set of life skills.  Every afternoon that they spend on the court, students learn perseverance, grow as leaders, work together towards a common goal and develop self-confidence.  Tennis demands that the players show a level of respect, for themselves and their opponents, that you don’t find in many other sports.

Over the years, the Foundation has grown into more than just a tennis program.  Today our primary focus is education.  Our students receive homework assistance, one-on-one mentoring and life skills training in addition to tennis lessons.  Our teachers, mentors and volunteers serve as incredible role models for the kids and help them set and reach goals that might otherwise be unattainable.  Adults who start out as complete strangers to these kids quickly become the ones who help with research projects, believe in their potential and help them reach it.

The kids we work with can be challenging- they test our patience and push us to our limit.  But every day when I leave the office, I go with a sense of accomplishment, because I can see the positive impact of our work on our students, families and community.





sarah-kirkwoodAbout the Author
Sarah Kirkwood was born and raised in Jacksonville and considers herself to be a true beach girl.  This soon-to-be Gator grad is finishing up her degree in public relations and is excited about the opportunities that await her after graduation.  A life-long love of sports and a first hand knowledge of how teams can positively impact a community has inspired her to seek a career in the sports field.