MELBOURNE — Volunteering with the Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development has inspired a West Shore Jr/Sr High School student to make a difference in the everyday lives of autistic children.
Nathan Foo, a rising senior, has dedicated his efforts to bridge the gap between autistic children and their community by using education, sports and the arts to enrich their lives with his “Voice of Autism” club.
Bank of America recognized the extraordinary potential of Nathan and named him as one of its 2020 Student Leaders, offering him a prestigious paid internship and access to virtual sessions that expose the vital role nonprofits play in the community.
“It feels really good because I finally know that my volunteer work has a new cause because we can work with nonprofits tied to the program,” Nathan said.
Nathan added he is grateful for having the opportunity to connect with other student leaders, nonprofits and local bank executives through the virtual sessions.
Through these online sessions, Nathan said he has learned the inner workings of nonprofits from building it up to running it successfully.
“The program with the Close Up Foundation has held a civil discourse session, and I’ve learned a lot through debating and discussing with a bunch of other student leaders from across the country,” Nathan said.
The Bank of America Student Leader program provides community-minded young students with the leadership training needed to be successful in the workforce. The program helps students develop their leadership skills and encourages them to continue with their community work.
Nathan said he works closely with the Parker Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with autistic children and inclusivity. He first got involved as a volunteer with the foundation in seventh grade and has since been inspired to better the lives of children with autism.
Pairing his love for tennis with volunteerism, Nathan helped to develop an annual summer adaptive tennis camp that is free to all autistic children in partnership with the Parker Foundation and funded by the Voice of Autism club.
“The first part of trying to promote inclusivity with autistic children is to get them involved in everyday activities that we take for granted,” Nathan said. “If you play a sport, you can become a buddy for these autistic children, and you’d be surprised how well it works.”
Nathan first started his volunteering efforts as a buddy for the Annual Adaptive Tennis Clinic at the Kiwi Tennis Club. Through his experience engaging with autistic children, Nathan was inspired by their perseverance.
On his website, Voice of Autism, instructional videos are available to teach autistic children drills in a variety of sports – tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball and swimming.
Nathan plans to expand his work with Voice of Autism after he graduates high school.
“My program and my tennis curriculum that I’ve developed can be expanded across the nation so that autistic children finally will have equal opportunity to be included and try this sport,” Nathan said.
To learn more about the Bank of America Student Leaders, visit https://about.bankofamerica.com/en-us/what-guides-us/student-leaders.html.
For more on Voice of Autism, visit www.voice-of-autism.org.