Missouri Valley / Heart Of America

Spotlight On Genesis School NJTL

Noah Ball | October 15, 2019

The USTA Foundation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network this year. In honor of this event, the USTA is focusing on many of the NJTL programs around the country that continually pour out their time, resources, and hard work to better their communities, local youth, and the game of tennis in their cities.


This week, the USTA Missouri Valley is highlighting the NJTL program within Genesis School, a nationally recognized K-8 open-enrollment public charter school located in the East side of Kansas City that serves inner-city youth. 


Genesis is a true community school, leveraging multiple community partners to serve their families and meet the needs of their students, and has expanded their resources to create an NJTL program that utilizes the sport of tennis to further the growth in their students. 


Genesis seeks to transform the Kansas City educational landscape by demonstrating that all students in an open-enrollment community school can achieve at the highest levels, and tennis has become a significant part of this lofty goal. 


The USTA Missouri Valley reached out to Kevin Foster, the Executive Director at Genesis School, to learn more about their programs and how they serve local Kansas City youth. 


USTA.com: How would you describe Genesis School's core beliefs? 

Foster: At Genesis, we believe all students can learn at high levels, and all students deserve educational excellence. A school culture based on mutual respect, rigorous expectations, and continuous growth sets the conditions for strong academic achievement. We believe achieving our students’ potential requires continuous learning and improvement. We use data to measure our progress, and purposeful reflection and research to alter our practices.


Character development is a critical component of education. Students who are respectful, responsible, resourceful, and responsive are prepared to lead within their communities and society at large. We also believe school must be inextricably linked to the community it serves: our students’ success benefits the community, while the community supports and informs our work. Leveraging community partnerships meets our students’ needs and ensures learning.


USTA.com: What or who originally inspired the foundation of Genesis School and its focus on tennis?

Foster: Genesis’ association with tennis pre-dates me and I believe started with Fred Johnson around 2000. As a school that serves youth, including at-risk youth, tennis has been a successful complement to academic programming. Like in the classroom and life, kids progress in tennis through hard work and practice. Tennis requires sportsmanship and provides our students to engage and compete with and against children that they otherwise would not normally come in contact with, often at places that they have not previously been. Tennis is also a way to bring other community members in contact with our students and the work we do at the school.


USTA.com: Genesis School looks to provide opportunities to kids both in tennis and also in their lives outside of the sport. What is important about this to you?

Foster: First and foremost, we are an academic institution focused on high learning expectations and outcomes, but we believe the school has an obligation to offer other opportunities for adolescents to identify and develop interests and passions. It’s important to bring in different components for kids to tap into their passions and be successful besides just in the classroom. 


USTA.com: What are some things Genesis School has accomplished since its conception as an organization?

Foster: Genesis has served the educational needs of students, particularly at-risk students, in Kansas City since 1975. It was one of the state’s original charters in 1998. We have been recognized for our behavior management program, our school-embedded mental health services, our academic support program, and our ability to connect and leverage community partners.


USTA.com: How do you find funding for the school, and how did you go about forming an NJTL program?

Foster: More than 90 percent of our funding comes from state and federal funding as a public charter school. In order to meet the needs of our school community and offer the programming to help our students meet ambitious goals, we solicit and receive additional dollars from grants, foundations and individuals. We also conduct a very successful tennis-themed fundraiser each year.


We are a unique NJTL chapter as an open-enrollment school, but it was an easy thing for us to do as we are already philanthropically focused and we have a steady supply of children coming into our extracurricular programs. We integrate the program with our after-school offerings and embedded it into our school curriculum.


USTA.com: How have seen growth in the kids who attend Genesis School and play tennis?

Foster: We focus on and measure academic growth at the student, classroom and building level and are proud of our results. We’ve found that tennis can be a great vehicle to expose kids to larger experiences. Tennis is a sport that an athletic child can pick up really quick, and our tennis program has impacted a lot of kids. 


We’ve had a group of kids find that they love the game, and some are still playing today. We had a student was academically strong but struggled behaviorally. When he started playing tennis, it just clicked with him. He got a tennis scholarship, won a new racquet, and was able to travel to play tennis and make friends in different cities. Tennis expanded his worldview. 


To learn more about the work Genesis School does, visit their website or contact Kevin Foster at KevinFoster@genesisschool.org


Contact Tara Williams at williams@movalley.usta.com to learn more about NJTL programs within USTA Heart of America, and go to this page on the USTA Foundation’s website to learn more about the NJTL Network as a whole.



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