Foundation assists student-athletes with ‘life skills’


Savannah Youngs, a La Jolla High School junior, is a member of the cross-country, varsity basketball and softball teams. She spends hours at practice, yet still finds time to maintain a high grade point average. She even volunteers with the National Charity League and the Girl Scouts on a regular basis.

In order to keep calm with such a busy lifestyle, Youngs says she finds it important to have supportive mentors that help lessen performance anxiety and help student-athletes with the pressures of college and life.

In addition to the strong support her family gives, Young reached out to The ATLAPA Foundation (TAF), a local nonprofit organization that offers a fresh approach to mentoring by including a social-emotional curriculum.

The program, which costs $450 to $650 a semester depending on the student’s needs, implements a “life skills program” in which student-athletes are assisted in setting short-term and long-term goals and focuses on the concept that well-roundedness is developed through growth.

“My TAF enrichment instructor helps me with test-taking skills and, in addition, she is helping me to visualize what I want in the future,” Youngs said. “What I like most is that my enrichment instructor tries to get to know me as a person and as a student and from that knowledge she gains an understanding of my struggles to better help me relax and succeed.”

Founder Ilka De Leon said she felt student-athletes were lacking and offers fundamental assistance for parents and students like Youngs by creating a resource that prepares the athlete for a complete college experience.

De Leon said the program builds academic and athletic excellence while offering a variety of preparatory services to student-athletes. Participants attend a semester-long series of enrichment sessions that target such topics as time management, goal setting and visualization skills and sportsmanship and stress management.

“I feel that TAF is preparing me to take important steps because going to college means opportunity and it means being able to have new experiences while setting myself up for the future,” said Youngs. “Being the first person in my family to graduate from college will be an honor and is something that really excites me.”

Students are offered groups of no more than 10 or one-on-one sessions that are more customized. By creating a triad of communication between student-athletes, parents and teachers, TAF provides support and services that address the ever-changing needs of student-athletes’ lives

“What I really like is that TAF is truly personalized while other tutoring programs have a one-size-fits-all package deal,” said Teri Youngs, Savannah Young’s mother. “TAF looks at Savannah as a whole person and gives her exactly what she needs. They are getting her to really visualize what she wants and are not just going through the motions of what she is supposed to be doing. I think that families are looking for a personalized experience because college athletics are a business and TAF is capturing the individual, not simply looking at all student-athletes as just that, an athlete.”

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