Mitchell Alandt is 16 years old, a student at Serra High School and headed for the Junior Olympics. It’s a busy schedule, but he’s added one more thing to it … helping domestic violence survivors at CORA!
Mitchell has committed to donating for every block he makes on his way to the Junior Olympics and is raising funds from supportive friends and family.
We spoke with Mitchell about his passion, both for water polo and for helping those experiencing abuse.
In one paragraph, how would you sum up all that is Mitchell?
I am a student athlete at Serra High School. Serra offers rigorous college preparatory classes and, in my sophomore year, I was challenged with four honor classes and, next year as a junior, I am looking forward to AP classes to stretch myself further. I love being part of a community that wants us to succeed at our highest potential in both areas – academics and athletics. Athletically, Serra competes in one of the most competitive high school leagues in California. Last year I was able to maintain straight A’s as well as being named the MVP of the Junior Varsity Water Polo Team. I am very proud of both of these accomplishments. However, what I am most proud of are the friendships I have made at Serra.
How did you first get into water polo?
My dad is a swimmer and he wanted me to try to join a swim team before I started high school. I had no interest in swimming but I did like playing basketball since the fourth grade. He thought water polo might be something that I might like because it sort of combined swimming with a ball. I joined the Golden State Water Polo team in San Mateo when I was 14 and have been hooked ever since.
What’s some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from playing?
I have learned that by being part of a team you always have to work together to achieve a common goal. You have to be dedicated and give your all during practice and at a game. It is something you do not only for your coach but your teammates. You do your best and try to learn new ways of doing things to improve your performance. It will not only make you a better player but inspire others. This is what me and my teammates do for each other.
What’s it like knowing you’re headed to the Junior Olympics?
Making it to the competition wasn’t easy. We lost our first qualifying game to a very tough team from the East Bay. After that loss we became more focused and kept winning until we heard last Sunday that we made it into the 2016 Water Polo Junior Olympics which will be held in Northern California. I am very excited to compete at this level and to experience the play from other teams across the USA! My team has a few more tournaments so we can practice our skills before we head to the national competition.
Why did you decide to support CORA and domestic violence survivors with your fundraising?
When I was younger, my mom started a foundation called GKay Angels. She started it to honor her grandmother, Kay, who she adored and was a victim of domestic violence. She would collect gently used clothing as well as new PJ’s and health care products and deliver them to CORA. I remember helping my mom sort things that were donated and put them into gift bags. My mom hasn’t had any time to focus on Gkay Angels recently since she;s either working or driving me to practice, games or tournaments. I thought this would be a good way to help CORA and have my mom know that even though we aren’t collecting items for abuse survivors as much as she would like, I am earning money for a cause that she is passionate about. By donating money for every goal I make, it helps me reach my goal of always trying to do better.
What would you say to other people who are thinking of donating to help abuse survivors?
You might think that domestic abuse in this area is rare, however it is not. It could be a neighbor, a friend’s mother or grandmother …. CORA helps find a safe haven for survivors to thrive and be safe. There are many way to help this cause.
Is there a quote that really inspires you?
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
Turn Your Passion into Support
What’s your passion? Run, ride, walk, dance, bake, knit, volunteer ….?
No matter what it is, you can use it to help those escaping domestic violence.
With EverydayHero you can turn your personal passion into making a difference in your community.
Support CORA’s work to end domestic violence with your next adventure. Anything from a marathon to a bake sale can make a difference.
Sign up with EverydayHero, choose “CORA COMMUNITY OVERCOMING RELATIONSHIP ABUSE” as your charity and start transforming lives!
Two things always seem to happen when I’m in a group of people and it comes out that I work for an organization helping those experiencing domestic violence. The first is someone will tell me â€“ usually aside and in a quiet voice â€“ that they experienced abuse in their past. The second is someone â€“ usually several people â€“ will say something along the lines of â€œI have a friend who I think is in an abusive relationship. What should I do?â€
When the latest statistics say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, it’s virtually guaranteed someone you know well has, is or will experience it. Yet, despite the widespread nature of the issue, few of us know how to address it when we see our friend or family member in the midst of it. This is largely due to the historical precedence that domestic violence was a private, â€œfamily issue.â€ We’ve been taught, mostly indirectly, to look the other way. Conversely, those of us who want to be helpful agents have lived our lives in social environments where abuse isn’t addressed openly, so we often lack the tools to effectively and compassionately assist. Is it any wonder that CORA employees are so often asked, â€œWhat should I do?â€
At this point, you’re probably asking how we answer in those moments. Ironically, the answer is very simple yet surprisingly complex: talk to them. Yes, it’s difficult to approach the subject, but the most caring, important thing you can do is let them know that they have your support and that there are options and they are not alone.
LEARN ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
One of the first things to do is learn all you can about domestic violence: do some research, familiarize yourself with the cycle of domestic violence, understand the psychology at play in an abusive relationship, familiarize yourself with the resources for survivors of abuse in your community, etc. Understanding the issue and knowing what assistance is available is key to everything that follows.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
Most people agree, the most difficult step is beginning the dialogue. Again, this is a subject that is not usually considered culturally appropriate to raise, so being uncomfortable is to be expected.
Also, make sure you are in the right place yourself, emotionally and mentally, to be a good friend. While it can be heartbreaking to see a loved one in an abusive situation, you need to keep in mind that, ultimately, any decision must come from them. You can’t do it for them or â€œrescueâ€ them. You can only be supportive and helpful.
As difficult as it may be, don’t â€œbadmouthâ€ the abuser. Despite the situation, your friend or family member may love the person, so statements like, â€œThey’re such a horrible person.â€ or â€œHow can you stay with them?â€ can cause the person you’d like to help to shut down. Instead, try using language that focuses on your friend. For instance: â€œNo relationship is perfect, and I know you love them. But I’ve noticed they don’t always treat you well, and I’m concerned about you.â€
In fact, that’s an excellent way to begin this challenging conversation. Some useful phrases could be:
â€œNo relationship is perfect, and I know you love them. But I’ve noticed they don’t always treat you well, and I’m concerned about you.â€
â€œI just want to be there for you. How can I help?â€
You love your friends and family. It’s why you’re concerned about the abuse they’re experiencing. Don’t be afraid to tell them you’re concerned about their safety. You can acknowledge that it’s a difficult situation for them while also recognizing the abuse. It’s important to verbalize your concern. Some helpful phrases might be:
â€œI’m worried about your safety and am afraid they’ll really hurt you next time.â€
â€œPromise me you’ll come to me if you need to talk.â€
Remember, you’re trying to avoid confrontation when you show support. Let them guide how much they want to address the issue. They should choose when they’re ready to discuss or act on their situation. Here are some great ways to show support without being confrontational:
â€œRemember you’re not alone. I’m here whenever you need to talk.â€
Don’t make decisions for them or tell them what to do. Calm, patient, vocal concern and support is paramount.
THE POWER OF COMFORT
Comfort is a powerful tool in these situations. It’s important to let them know that the abuse is not their fault. This may sound intuitive to you, but to someone in the emotional battle zone of an abusive relationship, self-blame can be a normal part of their outlook. Some useful phrases are:
â€œIt’s not your fault they treat you this way.â€
â€œYou are not responsible for their behavior.â€
â€œNo matter what you did, you do not deserve this.â€
By gently helping them understand the fact that, despite any feelings they may have, no one deserves to be abused under any circumstances, you can break down barriers of shame, guilt and isolation.
It’s normal to want to see the situation improve, but understand that your friend may dismiss your concern, may acknowledge everything but want to stay in the relationship, or may leave and then return to it. There are a multitude of reasons someone would choose to stay in an abusive relationship (despite how foreign they may seem to us on the outside), but it’s important to support them in whatever decision they make, without criticism or judgment. Remember, they may have spent a long time feeling unempowered or being told what they think is â€œwrongâ€ or â€œstupid.â€ Don’t let your actions amplify that voice in their head.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO GET HELP
Remember that homework you did at the beginning? Now’s the moment to show them the resources you’ve discovered. Have some websites you can recommend. Give them the information about their local domestic violence agency or hotline, like CORA. Getting them in touch with professional counselors with resources will drastically improve their situation.
â€œHere’s the number to our local domestic violence agency. They can help you with safety plans, housing and support groups.â€
â€œIf you need to go somewhere, I can go with you for support.â€
It’s not easy to watch someone you love go through the trauma and turmoil of domestic violence. With love, patience and awareness, your support can be a powerful tool helping them through this terrible time.
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