CoachArt Guitar Lessons in San Diego: Learning a Song You Know and Love

 In CoachArt Student Spotlight, CoachArt Volunteer Spotlight, San Diego

Yohann, Yoel, and Anthony’s Story

When Tracey Williams of Chula Vista saw CoachArt mentioned in a friend’s Facebook post, she knew it might be right for her son Yohann, age 9, who was diagnosed in infancy with congenital nystagmus, a neurological disorder that affects vision. Because Yohann is legally blind, he’s unable to participate in a lot of the activities his schoolmates enjoy.

“He’s in special education, but they haven’t fully addressed his needs,” Tracey said. “This year he’s been getting teased about his condition. There’s not much of a support community for nystagmus.”

She contacted CoachArt, which recently expanded to the San Diego area, and learned that she could enroll Yohann and his healthy sibling Yoel, age 12, for free art and athletics lessons and clubs in a supportive environment.

CoachArt program manager Emily Coldiron welcomed Tracey and her family into the CoachArt community in January of this year. Within a month, both boys had participated in a “Make Your Own Sock Puppet Pet” workshop at CoachArt’s downtown San Diego office, where they learned to use simple sewing techniques to create stuffed animals out of socks.

CoachArt students Yohann (L) and Yoel (R) with mother Tracey – participating in CoachArt’s “Make Your Own Sock Puppet Pet Workshop” in San Diego.

During the simple CoachArt family enrollment process, both boys had indicated that they were interested in learning guitar, among other activities, and they were soon matched with CoachArt volunteer Anthony Amaro, a software engineer who also lives in Chula Vista, for CoachArt guitar lessons in San Diego.

“I’ve had a fortunate life and I wanted to give back,” Anthony said about his decision to volunteer for CoachArt. “I had donated money to various causes, but I also wanted to donate time.”

What appealed to him about CoachArt, which he found after searching for local volunteer opportunities online, is that he could make a positive difference in people’s lives by doing something he already enjoyed: playing the guitar. He has been playing since he was 12, and his favorite artist is Jimi Hendrix.

Yohann and Yoel are a bit shy, and when Anthony first met them he wasn’t able to get a quick idea of what kind of music they liked, so he decided to start their lesson by teaching them to play the “Happy birthday to you” song.

“But after our third session I asked again, and they said they like ‘Happier’ by Marshmello,” Anthony said. “My 12-year old daughter likes that song too. So we worked on learning how to play it. It’s easier to learn a song that you know and love, because it gives you motivation to learn.”

“Tony is nice, cool, cooperative,” Yoel said. “I like his style.”

“He’s good at guitar,” Yohann added.

“They’re really good kids, really smart,” Anthony said. “I like them! Their mom is cool too.”

“Their lessons are going really well,” Tracey said. “They’ve formed a bond.”

The boys said their guitar skills are improving. Already, they’d like to perform in a band. Yohann would also like to join the police force, while his older brother would like to be an actor.

“I’ve had a fortunate life and I wanted to give back” – Anthony (Volunteer, CoachArt Guitar Lessons in San Diego)

MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS

Give a "virtual high five" on National High Five Day (Thursday, April 19th), and $5 will be donated to CoachArt!Since 2001, CoachArt has matched volunteer coaches with students for one-on-one or group lessons in arts and athletics. Our vision is that one day every family impacted by chronic illness will be connected to a community of support and an opportunity to learn and grow together.

CoachArt offers free art and athletic lessons to chronically ill children and their siblings between the ages of 5-18 in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego. If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, we invite you to fill out a student eligibility form or get in touch to learn if CoachArt is right for your child.

Ways to Help

Do you have an artistic or athletic skill you would like to share with a child impacted by chronic illness? Become a CoachArt Volunteer.

Learn how you can get involved with CoachArt to help kids impacted by chronic illness. Visit coachart.org/get-involved.

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