Organizer of the Month
June 21, 2018
Each month, USTA Eastern selects one passionate advocate who has made unique
contributions within the community through tennis. We celebrate LGBTQ Awareness
Month by featuring a wonderful woman who runs one of our section’s most successful
National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) programs with pride.
Tennis Organizer of the Month: June 2018
Every organization has its own secret sauce. Sometimes it’s an object or service that
distinguishes it from others. In the case of the Eastern NJTL Harlem Junior Tennis and
Education Program (HJTEP), the sauce comes in the form of a person, someone who
adeptly manages all its moving parts.
Mikella Matthias is the Operations Manager of HJTEP, a not-for-profit organization that
brings tennis to boys and girls, ages 7-18, many who come from high-risk, low-income
inner-city neighborhoods. ADVERTISEMENT HJTEP enrolls about 1,000 students annually in its programs
and Matthias expertly manages HJTEP’s day-to-day operations, administration, grants
management, external communications and enrollment, as well as tracking and
reporting outcomes among program participants.
“I work closely with our education director, tracking the socio-emotional and academic
endeavors for all our kids,” said Matthias. “Our program aims to develop the whole
child—in sports, school and life.”
HJTEP insists on academic achievement and offers educational support. The average
GPA of program participants is 3.1 (a 2.0 or higher GPA is required to remain in the
program), and 90% of our participants earn a high school diploma, compared to the
67% of students who graduate from high school citywide and only 25% in Central
“Tennis is a sport that promotes individuality and independence,” said Matthias.
“Through Harlem’s structure and programming, kids work to determine what kind of
player and person they want to become. Our services also help build a network of
support for each child, giving them a sense of camaraderie and a roadmap for what they
want to achieve. Our kids astound me every day. It’s a joy to see their transformations
into mature young people.”