Arthur Kapetanakis | May 6, 2019
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shape this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with Terri Florio, an NJTL leader of more than 20 years. Her NJTL chapter, the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation, was the recent recipient of a $75,000 grant through the USTA Foundation's "Net Generation Giving Back" initiative. The funds are being used towards the completion of a teen center—set to open in late 2019—that will double the number of students the foundation serves.
The Terri Florio File
Name: Terri Florio
NJTL Chapter: MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation (Jacksonville, Fla.)ADVERTISEMENT
Role with NJTL: Executive Director
Year became active with NJTL: 1996
How did you first become involved with NJTL?
Terri Florio: I’ve known MaliVai forever, since he first came out on the tour, and I first got involved with NJTL when he decided to expand his foundation into a more active foundation, as opposed to just a check-writing foundation in Jacksonville back in 1996.
We initially started just doing tennis programs with a little bit of education, and then we expanded into a full youth development tennis education program in 2000. I guess that’s the year we truly became an NJTL.
Before that I was running professional tennis tournaments and other events for a living.
How has the program evolved since that time?
Terri Florio: We had 27 kids in our core program in 2000, and now we have 200-some-odd kids in our core program.
Our outreach in 2000 in terms of schools programs and neighborhood clinics and partnership clinics with other organizations was probably limited to a couple 100 kids. Now we do 1,200-1,500 kids a year in our outreach programs.
How does the education component fit in?
Terri Florio: Our education component and our life-skills component is even larger than our tennis component. We do homework assistance and academic enrichment every day. We do life-skills classes that vary based on their age and grade level, and then we also do a lot of—with our middle and high schoolers—college and career preparation, both activities and classes. We go on college tours, have career fairs here and do a variety of things to prep them for their future.
Are there any particular highlights that stand out over your 20-plus years with the foundation?
Terri Florio: There are tons of highlights. We’ve had a number of kids that have gone to school with no debt.
The first child that we recruited for this after-school program, back in 2000, ended up staying with the program through high school. He graduated high school, walked on his college team at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), graduated from FAMU, and now he works for us as our head tennis professional. His name is Marc Atkinson.
What does it mean to you to be a part of NJTL’s history, which now spans back 50 years to its origins with Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder?
Terri Florio: I had the opportunity to meet Arthur personally, as well as Charlie personally. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Sheridan.
Just to be associated with—especially with Arthur—and that caliber of athlete that all three of them were. And the caliber of people that were willing to give back so much to the youth and that we’re following in their footsteps. I think it’s huge to be associated with that, and it not only gives us a lot of validity, but it reinforces our purpose.
Pictured above: Terri Florio (right) with Rob Howland at the groundbreaking ceremony for the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation's new teen center.