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Midwest

USTA Midwest Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 09, 2020

The USTA Midwest Section is excited and honored to be able to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with our members. Meet two of our hardworking organizations/individuals below and how they are making a difference in their respective communities. 

Amigos, the Richmond Latino Center (Central Indiana)

 

"Amigos, the Richmond Latino Center began in 1999, with the mission to empower the Latino community to engage actively in Richmond, Ind. and Wayne County and to promote learning, cooperation and respect across cultures. The Amigos tennis program began in 2014 for underrepresented youth with the support of the USTA in Indianapolis and Chicago. A Board member of Amigos started a similar program in Pittsburgh and in Atlanta, and he helped us launch this program. The USTA helped us learn the special youth initiatives and programming that we have followed since the beginning, including training for the coaches, special play days run by USTA staff and our coaches, as well as a yearly trip to the Children’s Day in Mason, Ohio at the Western & Southern Open.

 

We started with a summer camp in 2014 with a group of approximately 25 youth. Soon after, we grew to have year-round programming, especially as the beginners developed into better players and wanted to continue developing their skills. Three years ago, we started our Club de Tennis program for more advanced youth. Some of our players have served as assistant coaches for the beginners.

 

Our focus is on education, health, and creating cultural connections. Our tennis program fits all of these. Tennis provides excellent physical activity opportunities, and we encourage our learners to play as much as possible. We provide healthy snacks at each session to make sure that the players are well fed with nutritious food, and we encourage players to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Our volunteer coaches serve as mentors and educators for the players. They get to know the youth and often play tennis outside of our regular sessions. We create cultural connections by inviting youth of all backgrounds to come to our sessions. We have Latino, African American, Chinese, and Caucasian youth who get to know each other and make friendships. At each session, we have a Spanish word of the day and frequently a Chinese word of the day. Our coaches, also, come from diverse backgrounds.

 

Amigos, the Richmond Latino Center and the families we serve are very grateful for the generosity and support from the USTA/Midwest. Receiving the Midwest Diversity Grant is helping us to upgrade and /or replace equipment such as racquets, nets, and balls, and it is allowing us to provide healthy snacks. It also helps us to pay court fees when we move to an indoor facility.

 

This year, we are celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with an Amigos families and friends bike/walk on the local Cardinal Greenway Trail. In this way, we can practice social distancing and wearing of masks while participating in a safe activity together.

 

Advocating diversity and inclusion is important in all areas of our lives. Amigos works to empower Latinos to engage fully in life in Richmond and Wayne County, and the tennis program is a great way to do that. Youth have the opportunity to learn a new sport and to engage with diversity while doing that. Because of our program, the first Latino was selected for the high school tennis program, as well as three other youth who started tennis with us. We believe that there will be even more in the coming years as our kids grow older. It is wonderful to see the diversification of the high school tennis program. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to follow passions and pursue excellence in any calling they enjoy.

 

Finally, we would like to share the words from a parent about her daughter's experience with our program: 'Our daughter, 14, has participated in the Amigos Club tennis program for approximately two full years. I found this program while looking through local announcements. The Amigos tennis program has allowed our daughter to learn a sport she otherwise would never have been in a position to learn, as tennis is only offered as a private or high school sport. She has gained confidence in herself and her abilities to play competitively. I’m extremely thankful for all the opportunities the Amigos tennis program has provided to us.'"

 


Jim Powers, Midwest Diversity Grant Recipient (Northeastern Ohio)

"I am an Associate Professor in the Health and Wellness Sciences Division at Lorain County Community College (LCCC), Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Athletic Director and Recreation Coordinator. I got my start in tennis as the instructor of our Beginning Tennis PE class at LCCC and coordinating our annual tennis tournament for the public.

 

I also started our USTA Tennis On Campus team in 2008.

 

Since COVID-19 stopped my annual tennis play days I usually have for youth in our community, I had to pivot and received two grants to purchase youth racquets and foam balls for area youth that are generally underserved, as far as tennis, in our community. 

 

These are generally low-income individuals and families. The grants were necessary to be able to get the 140 racquets, balls and even some nets to to children at various locations in Lorain County during the week of July 27-August 2, 2020. The city of Lorain has a good history with tennis and a large Hispanic representation. With the demise of city recreation departments, I have tried to keep local, free, fun activities available. 

 

The equipment was given out at a day care center, two of our college outreach centers, a local elementary school with a large Hispanic population, the local Boys and Girls Club and the Aces Youth Service group. All these organizations have large Hispanic representation, as well as African-American and Caucasian. 

 

Staff at LCCC, along with community group staff and USTA Northeastern Ohio President, Tammy Simone, assisted in passing out the equipment. Overall, the diversity of the children receiving the equipment was immense. 

 

We were able to include some quick demonstrations on drills, games to play with the equipment, and we provided each recipient with a flyer (in English and Spanish) with some additional resources to look up online.

 

Here is a summary of the days/events/community groups involved. In addition to specific community groups, there were also individuals who heard of the give away and stopped by:

 

Tuesday, July 28

Little Lighthouse Learning Center, Lorain, Ohio-Children at the center received equipment.

 

Wednesday, July 29

Dohonos Elementary School, Lorain, Ohio- Students received equipment, and we left a few racquets and portable nets with the school.

 

Thursday, July 30

LCCC Learning Center, Wellington, Ohio- Individuals in the community received equipment.

 

Friday, July 31

LCCC Learning Center, Lorain, Ohio-Individual community members, ACES Youth group, Steel City Boxing group received equipment.

 

Monday, August 3

Lorain Boys and Girls Club, Lorain, Ohio-Racquets, tennis balls, two portable nets donated.

 

I appreciate all the work the USTA does to support community tennis. We had to adjust summer youth event plans quickly, and the USTA responded. I plan to start the community team challenges, clinics, etc. as soon as we get the OK.

 

This is a good fit for National Hispanic Heritage Month, as these kids can carry on the tradition of tennis in the community that has diminished over the years. The play days have become fun, annual events that bring our community together. I get local physical education instructors, community members, LCCC students and the local tennis community involved. Diversity is essential for the growth of tennis. The backbone of tennis is local, public courts. We need to find alternate methods of delivery that can be sustained. The USTA is doing just that."

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