National Honor Society (NHS) members are required to have at least 30 community service hours by the end of the school year. Many of the junior and senior members choose to tutor fellow classmates or volunteer at a local homeless shelter; however, juniors Jack Stricker and Sarah Gompper took a unique approach to the task by volunteering to teach Falls Church youth the sport of wrestling.
Gompper and Stricker are both members of the varsity wrestling team here at Mason and first got involved in this volunteer experience over the summer when, “Coach Bryan Sulc created a wrestling camp for kids who might be interested in the sport, and the varsity team was asked to help out,” explained Stricker.
The camp was a success, and many of the participants signed up for the Falls Church Force wrestling program’s inaugural season, also headed by Bryan Sulc, which is where Gompper and Stricker racked up their service hours.
The youth program, which has participants ranging from the ages of five to twelve, meets three evenings a week at Mary Ellen Henderson and both Gompper and Stricker teach about two of the days per week, after their own practice had ended.
“They also have tournaments on the weekends [and this past weekend] they had their final tournament,” explained Gompper.
When asked why he chose to teach wrestling for service hours as opposed to other activities, Stricker said, “I like the sport of wrestling and think that it teaches great values. I can tell you for a fact that every one of the kids that came out has been affected by participating, both mentally, physically and emotionally.”
Similar to how the summer camp saw success, the Force program has seen much dedication and triumph, with most of the kids who showed up to the first few days of practice still showing up and having a great time.
“There's really a new funny moment each day because, even though wrestling is hard and demanding, spirits are never broken. I like that [dedication] a lot. These kids are doing something great and seem to like it a lot,” shared Stricker.
Especially touching to Gompper, one of only two girls on the Mason varsity team, was the bond she formed with the girls on the Force team.
“Although I care about all of the kids, I have spent a lot of time this season with the three girls [on the Force team] telling them how important it is that they stick with the sport. I was so proud to see them win matches; it’s almost like they’re an extension of myself,” shared Gompper.
Throughout the interview process, it was very striking just how devoted and proud of their students Stricker and Gompper were. It was evident that both were not just trying to push through the volunteer process to get the required hours, but they really enjoyed their time spent with the Force kids.
Their passion for the Mason team was also evident in their volunteer work.
“I was really excited to work with the slightly older kids because they’re going to make up the high school team soon enough. A few of them are planning to work out with the team next year, which is promising for the future of the sport at Mason,” explained Gompper.
As new NHS members, Gompper and Stricker well surpassed the first requirement of 10 service hours by the end of the first semester. Their altruistic service and love of wrestling should be inspiring to other NHS members and the entire community.