Holly Johnson, 13, of Guilford, Conn., an eighth-grader at Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School, coaches children in recreational and Special Olympics gymnastics at a local community center. Holly has been involved in service projects such as food and recycling drives through the Girl Scouts for years and, more recently, joined a school service organization called Peer Helpers, which sends students out into the community to participate in a wide variety of volunteer activities. When she heard that the local gymnastics team needed someone to help coach, this avid young gymnast jumped at the chance to combine two of her favorite things: gymnastics and helping others. Gymnastics is a big part of my life, and seeing children improve makes me feel proud of not only them, but of the hard work that I put into helping someone else achieve their goals, said Holly.
She works with the local gymnastics team approximately eight hours a week. Holly also volunteers as a training buddy to an athlete with special needs for a Special Olympics team. She trains the young gymnast and then competes alongside her. In addition, Holly is working on gaining experience as an instructor until she is old enough to be certified through USA Gymnastics, and also plans to raise money to buy equipment for the Special Olympics team, such as a vault. She said she loves watching her students become more confident as they hone their skills. I remember helping a little girl get over her fear of the balance beam. She ended up being extremely talented and she loved it, said Holly.