Extracurricular activities are part of the fun being in high school for many kids. It takes a truly unique and passionate high schooler, who by himself, invents, designs, recruits, funds and finally incorporates his own nonprofit organization!
Teaching a tennis clinic connected to a free and reduced lunch program, Weihong Sun discovered a passion for connecting with kids through tennis and recognized that many kids don’t have an opportunity to participate in his favorite sport. Sun wanted to continue the clinics after the program ended. Unfortunately, this high school sophomore hit a barrier; he was unable teach tennis as a private individual on public courts. Refusing to let go of his idea, he rallied his high school peers and developed community partnerships. He built a website and officially launched Dublin Tennis Outreach Program (Dublin TOP) as a 501c3 in 2019.
Dublin TOP grew from seven kids to over 900 kids in grades K-5. Today, it also offers an education component. Three school districts, operating out of three locations (and even virtually, thanks to Covid-19) now utilize a team of over 30 coaches and tutors. The growth over the past two years is staggering. But what remains magical is that the entire organization is operated solely by high school student volunteers. Led by Sun and fellow students he selected as site directors, these volunteers have autonomy over all aspects of the program, from tennis activities and drills, to tutoring curriculum.
The lesson learned? An organization for little kids, run by “bigger kids,” is a great business model! As long as there are students in high school, Dublin TOP has an endless pool from which to select tennis instructors and tutors. Moreover, these unpaid, students are gaining valuable work experience and volunteer hours, while building their college resumes. And the biggest reward? It’s having fun with kids while playing the great sport of tennis. This volunteer-managed organization means that Dublin TOP is able to offer quality tennis clinics and tutoring instruction for free, which makes it possible to reach even more kids and build community. Beyond exposure to tennis and help with school, the little kids really enjoy spending time with their young role models.
Dublin TOP recently acquired the designation as a NJTL (National Junior Tennis and Learning), making it the very first all high school led NJTL in USTA history. Not an easy classification to achieve. As a designated NJTL, significant funding is made available from the USTA, helping to ensure sustainability. Sun is beginning to discuss the idea of expanding into nearby cities. It is amazing to remember that Dublin TOP is an organization for little kids being run by bigger kids. Weihong Sun was only 16 years old when he became the founder of a non-profit corporation acknowledged by a national organization…proving you are never too young to make a difference.
Please help the USTA/Midwest Tennis & Education Foundation continue to support programs like this with your donation. For more information on Dublin TOP please visit www.dublintop.org