We Asked Our Students: “What Have You Learned from MWYF?”

MWYF’s programs are always growing and expanding to provide our students a broad base of support. One of the most valuable components of our program is life skills classes. These classes provide students with instruction on how to manage money, apply to college and for scholarships, anger management, and other real world skills. MWYF’s life skills classes help us guide our students through adolescence into adulthood. As we look to the future, which includes building the new Teen Center — we asked students to reflect on what MWYF has taught them so far.

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“TnT has taught me that there are hardships in life that you need to accept because it will get better. This is important to me because it tells me that there are some things in life that I may find unfair and disagree with, but I shouldn’t lose hope. It helps me as a student because I may not be happy or agree with something in school, but I can handle things in a positive way.”

Lashanta H. (1)

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far through MWYF, it’s that failure is ok. Failure is hard to avoid, but it’s evidence that you tried. MWYF has showed me this on so many occasions. Failure has helped me through tennis because when I was matched with a higher rated competitor, I didn’t just lose, but I learned a lesson—whether it was how to better my shots or how to avoid making the same mistakes.”


“One lesson I have learned from MWYF is life skills. Life skills classes have helped me a lot by teaching me skills that will take me through school, college, work, and the real world. Some of the things I’ve learned are why you shouldn’t use drugs, how to make a career plan, and how to resist conflict and stay out of trouble. The research papers we’ve written and activities I participated in helped me realize that I want to become an OBGYN.”

Jaakari (1)

“Attending MWYF has impacted me greatly. It helped me manage my attitude while giving me relief from school, and without it me and my peers may have chosen a different path. As a young man with anger problems, MWYF provided me with a support system and taught me how to control my attitude and effectively communicate with others. I hope by continuing to come to MWYF I can get rid of my attitude and anger issues for good.”

Amiya (1)

“I have been attending MWYF for 12 years now and I have learned many things throughout those years. The lesson that will stick with me forever is that having a negative attitude in any situation will cause me to lose a lot. I learned this during my first tennis matches because whenever I would lose a match I would be furious towards my opponent. As I got older, I realized I was only making myself look bad and worsening my circumstances. This instruction from MWYF showed me that, as a student, having a positive attitude can make the difference between having an amazing life and a nonsense one.”

You can help us impact more students’ lives by donating to our Teen Center!


Neriah: Youngest Student Athlete of the Year in Program History!

When Neriah Owens won the George M. Soper Student Athlete of the Year Award this year she became the youngest student in our program to ever do so. Read her story below about how she prepared to give a speech in front of 400 people and what this award means to her!

Neriah Crowd

I was speechless and really surprised when I first got this award, but I was also proud.  I didn’t think it was real because I was in the 5th grade not the older grades like all the previous winners.  After that day, people started thinking highly of me and I was a little overwhelmed.  It finally became real when I was called up to the front office to put my name plaque up on the board where all the other former student athlete’s names are.  Shortly after that, it was time to start working on my speech (a lot of people kept asking me about it) for the gala.  When doing my speech, I got help from others and I am grateful for all that help and support.  I even asked the former student athletes questions to help ease my nerves. Every day leading up to the gala I had to say my speech out loud to people to practice.

On the day of the gala, I was quite nervous and a little stressed.  I was really confused what to do and where to go.  Sadly, when I had to go up and talk I had to stop eating my food so I never finished eating.  As I was waiting to do my speech I was so scared, my knees were shaking a little, but once I started talking I felt a lot more calm.  Then, I was done and I got a huge standing ovation and I felt so proud.  After, we played a short little game where I helped on stage.  I was so tired at the end but I had an amazing night.

Neriah Speech

Being Student Athlete of the Year has filled me with a lot of determination.  From the start, I felt as if I had a great amount of responsibility held over my head, but I was fine with it because I knew that’s what it takes to receive this award along with other scholarships.  To me, this scholarship is a great achievement.  Out of all other students, I proved myself to be good enough, even though no one as young as me has ever won before.  I want the next person that receives this scholarship to be able to learn and grown on the tennis court, in the classroom, and all around the world—no matter what gets in their way.

With my scholarship, I’d like to attend North Carolina State University and get my bachelor’s degree, although I am not sure what I want to study yet.  NC State is a great school that has multiple programs for me to get involved in and sports teams to cheer for.  It’s where my father went to school and I hope to make my parents proud!

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Sylver is “spear”ing success!

This past week, one of our seniors, Sylver, graduated from William M. Raines High School. She is now preparing to move to Tallahassee where she will be attending Florida State University on a full scholarship! We are so proud of all that she has accomplished while in our program and can’t wait to see what she will achieve in Tallahassee.

Read her story below about her experience as a full-time student while doing dual enrollment, playing tennis and maintaining a job.

While being a full-time student, playing tennis and maintaining a job may sound like a lot for an 18-year-old, it’s not. I have a lot of goals, dreams and aspirations that I would love to accomplish, conquer and obtain. The only way to satisfy my future needs are to work hard now so that I can live lavish later. This lifestyle comes easy to me because I keep God first and he strengthens me and reminds me to never give up and contribute 100% effort towards everything I put my mind to.

I found out that all of my hard work and dedication paid off on January 25, 2018 at 5:19 PM when I received my acceptance into Florida State University. FSU has been my dream school and being able to say that I am a Nole is a dream come true. We have several Noles in my family and it means everything and more for me to be able to join the club.

Without TnT, I would not have the preparation or the mindset I have now. Since 5th grade, TnT has instilled in me to never give up and keep school first. TnT provided me with opportunities and exposed me to things I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else.

Great partners make a greater impact!

The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation partners with Take Stock in Children in providing our students with a 2-year community college scholarship & a mentor to encourage students in goal setting & college preparation.

Judy & Tequilla have been meeting almost every week for the last 3 years. Judy was introduced to MWYF prior to her involvement with TSIC. She joined our board and found out about the opportunity Tequilla had through Take Stock, so signed up to be her mentor!

We asked Judy what her favorite part about mentoring is and this is what she said:

“I look forward to seeing Tequilla each week, and hearing about all the details of her life. We talk about her progress in school, of course, and address how to tackle any problems she is having. But what I enjoy most is listening to her thoughts about her life – what interests her, what she’s passionate about, what path she’d like to take in life.”

Many of the staff at MWYF are mentors for Take Stock, meeting with mentees a few times a month, to talk about college preparedness & life.

Tequilla, now in 10th grade,  said that when she and Judy first started meeting, she just wanted to know how she was going to help keep her on track. Now, she is so thankful for the relationship they have. She says “My favorite part of meeting with Mrs. Judy is our relationship. She likes to talk about doing things outside of TnT with me, and she treats me kind of like a child of hers.”

We love that the mentor/mentee relationships fostered through the Take Stock program become ones that last. “While most adults begin mentoring to make a difference in the life young person, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wondered if the benefit to me is even greater. I look forward to seeing Tequilla each week, celebrating her triumphs and sharing her challenges. I have a bond with her that I hope will last a lifetime. said Mrs. Judy.

We’re thankful for great partners that believe in our students and their potential. If you’d like to sign up for the Take Stock in Children mentoring program, click this link: http://takestockjax.org/mentoring/


Bernard: College Bound!


Bernard is a senior at Robert E. Lee High School. We are very proud of him & all he’s accomplished throughout his educational career. Read his story below:

“Coming to the program has helped me because It has made me realize how much of an asset college is. This program has put in my head at an early age that college is possible. TnT set a trail for me on how to be successful and that all I had to do was apply myself.

For college, I’m undecided on where I want to go. However, I do know that I want to major in Physical Therapy. Having already completed an internship with Brooks Rehabilitation, I realized that I am sure about this major. While in school I also plan to play collegiate basketball.

The activities I am currently involved in are yearbook staff, basketball, tennis, & 5,000 Role Models. 5,000 Role Models helped me to go to Washington, DC. In Washington I was 1 of 14 other people chosen out of the whole COUNTRY. This was a round table for us to talk about youth and police relations. It was a really great and unforgettable experience.

What I am most excited about for college is getting my degree and getting to know myself better as a young adult!”

-Bernard T.

Mentoring at MaliVai – Nick & Troy

Troy and Nick

The mentoring program at MaliVai Washington provides so many opportunities for our students to  gain insight & knowledge about life experiences from their mentor while building positive relationships. This program gives our students the opportunity to receive one-on-one homework assistance and to have someone dedicated to helping them succeed as an individual.

We take time in matching each mentee with their mentor & we are continually encouraged when we hear of stories about positive life change happening in our students and volunteers!

Below is Nick & Troy’s story about their experience through the mentor program. We hope you are as inspired & encouraged as we were after hearing their story:

(These direct quotes have been taken from a recent essay Troy wrote about his greatest role model and an interview with his mentor, Nick)

“Mr. Nick is my mentor. He has been my mentor for three years. He is where I want to be when I grow up.” – Troy (6th grade)

Nick Smith, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy was matched with one of our students, Troy, through our mentoring program when Troy was in the 4th grade. Three years later, Nick and Troy (now in 6th grade) still meet at the center for about an hour to talk about homework, work, school and life.

“My mentor serves in the Navy and I want to serve in the military. Sometimes when I see him in his uniform I imagine myself dressed the same way he is.” – Troy (6th grade)

Often times, Nick comes to the center after work, still dressed in his uniform. Obvious questions arose about what he does and what his work entails. The discipline, dedication, & commitment taught in the Navy are lessons easily transferable to the importance of having those qualities when it comes to school work. The relationship built between them has become one that inspires Troy on the journey towards his future!

“Recently, Troy has begun considering a future in the U.S. Navy. The possibility that I might walk with him on a journey to serve his country is, without question, my favorite part about mentoring.” – Nick Smith

At the center everyone knows when they see Nick, he’s here to hang with Troy!

“Most of my day is spent being called Lieutenant Smith or Nick. At MWYF I am ‘Troy’s mentor’ and I couldn’t be more happy about it.” -Nick Smith

The commitment Nick has to Troy has trickled outside of the center and has led to building a relationship with Troy’s family! We love how their relationship has developed over the last few years  and hope it continues to grow as Troy moves on to the 7th grade and beyond. We’re thankful for all that Nick has done & continues to do in developing such strong commitment to Troy’s success. We’re also excited to watch Troy learn, grow, and become all he was meant to be!

“I thank him everyday. I thank him for going out of his way to be the best mentor anyone can have!” -Troy (6th grade)

Nick & Troy

Arthur Ashe National Contest Winner & Winning Essay

CONGRATS to rising 7th grader Alfredo who was one of only 10 contest winners in the USTA Foundation’s NJTL National Arthur Ashe Essay and Photo Contest! Alfredo’s essay about his local NJTL hero won him a trip for two New York City and the 2015 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess on August 29th. Great job, Alfredo! For all interested in reading his essay, check it out here!  News4Jax also covered this great achievement. Check out their full story here.

AlfredoArthur Ashe Kids Day 2015

What a Scholarship Means to Me

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Ashton (second from the left) and other scholarship recipients pictured at the 2013 Gala where they were acknowledged for their hard work.

During my time as a student in the TnT program, I was able to earn over $16,000 in scholarships. While I was applying for college, it was nice to know that this money was available to use for classes, books and other expenses.

I currently attend FSCJ and plan to transfer to UCF next year. I am currently majoring in biology but am thinking about switching my major to exercise science. After I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree I will apply to Physical Therapy school. I hope to have some scholarship money left because PT school is expensive!

I think all of the students in the program should apply for scholarships because it is a good opportunity to get money for school. It’s also a good opportunity for them to practice their interview skills which they will need later when they apply for jobs.

-Ashton Scott

The Road to a 4.0


My name is Tiah and I am currently in 6th grade.  My middle school is a math, science and technology school.  Last year, because of my high FCAT scores, I tested into advanced classes.  That means that I am above the standard 6th grade level.

We have finished the 3rd quarter and I have successfully maintained a 4.0 GPA.  This accomplishment has made me very proud of my academic performance.  The way I feel about my grades encourages me to finish out the year with a perfect GPA.  It would be a great accomplishment to finish my 6th grade year with all A’s.

Keeping up my GPA is very important to me.  All of my good grades help me ensure my seat in a good high school, then on to college.  But for now I’m going to focus on maintaining my 4.0 average for the remainder of the year.



4.0 Trip: Antonia and Shavonna Visit NYC


Antonia (12th grade) and Shavonna (9th grade) are the first students in the history of the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation to earn the 4.0 Trip.  Their hard work paid off and they had a great time in NYC!

“This trip by far has been amazing!!!  We got to see and learn a lot about New York and its history.
Starting at the airport in Jacksonville: We were both nervous, hungry and tired considering it was 6:00 in the morning.  Going through the baggage check was hectic had about 5 items that weren’t allowed on the plane (and Shavonna had about 8 added Antonia).  Because of that we had to go check that bag out at baggage claim and re-enter security.  First getting on the plane we were both nervous because this was our first time riding a plane and Toni’s stomach was hurting.  Take-off was a little shaky but not too bad.  After the first 10 minutes we were good and asleep (Shavonna fell asleep on Antonia’s arm- it went numb).  The landing of the plan was rough because it was unexpected.  Once we arrived in NY we rode our first taxi to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt.  The hotel was very beautiful and filled with tennis decorations.  For the rest of the day we walked down Fifth Avenue and visited Times Square. That night we rode our first subway, which was very smelly.  We caught the subway to our first Broadway show,  Motown: The Musical.  The show was very entertaining and informative about music.  The next day we got an exclusive tour of the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.  We watched Venus and Serena’s doubles match which they won.  Then on our way to Roger Federer’s match, we got drenched and had to leave.  Monday morning we met up with MaliVai for breakfast at Pax.  After breakfast we visited the 9/11 memorial building, then we rode a ferry to Staten Island and saw the Statue of Liberty.  Once we saw all of that, we visited the Empire State Building, which was 86 floors.  After that we went back to the hotel and chilled for about an hour then went to the airport where our flight was delayed. We hope we’ll be able to go on the trip again next year and hope that some of the other students will get a 4.0 so they can join us!”
-Shavonna and Antonia