Stephanie Cole and Tiana Karren have been close friends since they were two years old. Even going to different schools hasn’t gotten in the way of their friendship. This year, the two Laurels from the Saratoga Ward, in the California Saratoga Stake, decided to turn that friendship into good works with a joint Personal Progress project.
One day last fall, Stephanie was talking about how much her younger cousins like to sing and how they wanted to be in a choir. Stephanie, who loves music and has played piano since kindergarten, suggested she might organize a children’s choir. When her mom casually mentioned the conversation to the ward Primary chorister, the chorister jumped at the opportunity and signed Stephanie on in short order.
The children’s choir seemed like the perfect Value Project—until Stephanie counted the children in the Primary. “I knew right away that this was a bigger task than I could handle on my own,” says Stephanie.
Knowing that her friend Tiana loved music, she enlisted her help. “Sometimes it was really challenging to get the children to even listen and pay attention,” says Tiana.
When the day finally arrived for the program, Stephanie accompanied the children on piano, and Tiana directed. The children sang beautifully!
“Our teamwork really paid off,” says Stephanie. “So many people came up after and told us how much they enjoyed the program.”
After 12 hours of work, the Primary program was done. The girls continued to hold practices with the children’s choir to finish the project’s needed hours—and for fun! But they didn’t stop there.
“Ashley, my younger sister, was always trying to talk me into coaching her basketball team,” says Stephanie. “I’ve been playing on a basketball team since fourth grade, and I love the game so I figured, why not?” Once again Tiana responded to Stephanie’s call for help. At first, it looked like another good opportunity for a Personal Progress project. In the end it became a labor of love in which they ended up working beyond their required hours.
“Not only did we get to be involved in something we both love,” says Tiana, “but it was even more fun when we found out that all but three of the girls on the team are members of our ward and the other girls are all their friends.”
Needless to say, coaching the young team has not been without challenges. For starters, Tiana and Stephanie had to make time in their busy schedules for three full months of weekly practices and Saturday games, not to mention time spent making phone calls to keep parents updated.
Tiana laughs when asked about the other challenges they faced, noting that “the players are the best of friends, and sometimes they love talking even more than they love basketball!”
Stephanie says the hardest part of coaching was teaching basketball skills that are second nature to her and Tiana but are new to the team and especially the younger girls who have never played before.
Tiana added that coaching this team has made her think about what it means to be a good example. “We had to be careful to treat each player fairly and impartially even though we both have younger sisters on the team,” she says.
Tiana and Stephanie taught the girls to work together as a unit, just as they had to learn to work together as coaches. On this team, no girl is a stranger, and no girl is left out.
When asked about her coaches, 11-year-old Leah Williams says, “I totally look up to them. Not only are they really good basketball players and my coaches, but they are also my best friends. I know that when they tell me what to do I can trust them.” She added that someday she would like to coach a team herself.
Eleven-year-old Abby Hulme, who had never played on a basketball team before, said she was more comfortable with Stephanie and Tiana than she would have been with a coach she didn’t know.
Linda Williams, the Saratoga Ward Young Women president (and Leah’s mom), commented that she was impressed that Stephanie and Tiana are so willing to share their talents and what they love with others.
A Primary choir. A girls’ basketball team. Who knows what’s next for these two Laurels? One thing is sure, though—they know that when they are in the service of others, they are in the service of their Heavenly Father. Understanding that principle helped them to see that Personal Progress doesn’t have to be an unwelcome chore or extra work.
“Find a way to do the things you are interested in anyway,” suggests Stephanie.
Of course, not all Personal Progress projects are meant to be done as a team. But as Tiana says, “Doing it with a friend makes it more fun.”