INDIANAPOLIS --- Two Midwest organizations were recently named the recipients of the 2020 Robert P and Barbara D Harris Grant: NJTL of Indianapolis and The ACE (Active Children Excel) Project of Chicago.
The Robert P and Barbara D Harris Grant is awarded to organizations seeking to start or expand tennis programming in their community. Funding is provided to develop instructional programs, organize league play for players of all ages, ability and populations, create tournament play or anything that encourages long-term growth of tennis programming in the community.
NJTL of Indianapolis
NJTL of Indianapolis recently expanded its afterschool tennis and education program to a second Indianapolis school, Enlace Academy. The afterschool program, which began in 2018 and also includes Paramount Schools of Excellence Brookside, combines an hour of tennis instruction with an hour of educational assistance, which includes homework help, test preparation, and introducing the basics of tennis, from etiquette to its history.
The free afterschool program focuses on schools with minority populations in which most of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The program has made tennis more accessible to children who might not have been introduced to the game otherwise.
"Our goal is to provide students with the opportunity to learn a sport to which they may have never been exposed and that they can play for a lifetime, and be 'coached' with new and different ways to improve their grades and understanding of their school work," NJTL of Indianapolis Executive Director Dax Lowery said.
"We'd like to thank the USTA/Midwest Tennis & Education Foundation and the Robert P and Barbara D Harris Grant for their support of NJTL. The funds will go toward the purchase of new racquets, books and supplies for this free afterschool program."
NJTL of Indianapolis plans to add additional schools to the programs next year.
The ACE Project
Despite school shutdowns in response to the pandemic, The ACE Project adapted its model to address the growing need in Southland Chicago, an area disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of COVID-19 and the social unrest that has resulted from decades of anti-Blackness and police brutality. The organization launched digital services and connected vulnerable families to resources to help stabilize.
Then, as stay-in-place orders lifted, The ACE Project successfully piloted tennis camps and adult process groups in partnership with local day care centers and park districts, demonstrating the viability of in-person programs in a post-COVID world.
With the Robert P and Barbara D Harris Grant, The ACE Project will launch eight-week in-person camps that run four days per week for approximately two hours per day; the organization will serve at least 50 participants, ages five-nine. Youth will be split into cohorts that alternate between tennis instruction, snack-/break-time, and daily rotating activities, including academic enrichment, art/play therapy, digital storytelling, and reading. These services are free of charge for participants’ families.
The program’s goal is to establish a safe, complementary service model that aligns with school districts’ education plans and bridges current gaps in positive youth development due to remote learning and social distancing.
The ACE Project’s mission is to nurture children living in underserved communities by building character, confidence, and competency through the sport of tennis.