Hispanic Heritage Month: Inspiring Local Youth Through Tennis
September is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the rich culture and vast contributions of the latinx community in the U.S. The USTA Kansas district is ethnically diverse and home to cities, such as Wichita, with large, thriving hispanic populations. As such, we strive to bring tennis to these communities so they can share in all the fun and community our sport is known for.
There’s a lot of good work being done for the residents of Wichita through partnerships between the USTA Foundation, the Genesis Foundation for Fitness & Tennis (GFFT), and the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation of Kansas, including the recent National Junior Tennis League program. With help in part from USTA Foundation grants, the program brought tennis programming and education to 34 Wichita-area schools and over 1,630 students, introducing many who otherwise might not pick up a racquet to a sport they can play and enjoy for a lifetime.
This school year, the partnership between these three philanthropic factions will debut a new after-school tennis program for students in third through eighth grade. Thanks in part to a grant from the USTA Foundation, GFFT will help 40 students from Wichita-area schools have the opportunity to learn how to play tennis while also focusing on their academic, social, and emotional skills. The students will spend four days a week in the program, with 45 minutes of academic support after school and 75 minutes of indoor tennis at their local Genesis Health Club.
“We believe in the power of sports and education to transform lives,” said DeAnn White, director of GFFT. “We want the athletic and academic support to be fun and engaging, while helping students enhance their skills, particularly reading and math. Our support will include tutoring, STEM experiments, career exploration, and hands-on activities.”
These academic lessons, many of which will be presented through a tennis-focused lens, will allow students to make sense of what they learn by seeing it in action. For example, they might learn how to measure the dimensions of a tennis court or determine the height of the net. Social and emotional skills are learned through collaborative reading programs as well as during tennis lessons. “Tennis is not just a sport; it’s a valuable tool for teaching teamwork, good sportsmanship, patience, and perseverance, as well as how to handle loss,” said DeAnn. “These skills are important not only on the court, but in their everyday lives.”
DeAnn also mentions that GFFT will include community service projects in the program. “Under our guidance, these students will create and implement projects directly benefiting less fortunate youth in our community,” DeAnn said. “Teaching them the importance of making a positive impact on others is essential.”
DeAnn hopes the program will have a positive impact on local students and be a boon to their personal growth. “Our goal is to empower these young individuals and remove barriers that might hinder their growth and success,” DeAnn said.