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USTA Foundation's NJTL Contest Winner: Ayianna Jenkins-Cain

The USTA Foundation asked NJTL participants to write essays answering a thought-provoking question requiring research and analysis. This year, their question was:

"No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helped you." - Althea Gibson

In this quote, we are asked to think about the people that supported your achievements. In your own words, what does this quote mean?

Who from your NJTL chapter helped you, how did they help you, and what impact has this made on your tennis skill and/or life?

We are proud to announce that one of the NJTL essay contest winners is Ayianna Jenkins-Cain from Milan, Michigan! She won a trip to New York City, got to attend the US Open, and visited the contest sponsor, Deloitte’s, Headquarters at 30 Rock! Read about Ayianna and her contest submission below.


My name is Ayianna, and I am 16 years old. I am a rising junior, and I love studying history. I am on the school swim team and work as a certified lifeguard with the local community pool. I started playing tennis nine years ago when my Dad's cousin, Lynette, founded a tennis and educational program to help kids develop on and off the court in my local area. I have many interests right now and love exploring different activities and interests. I've taken Japanese lessons for three years, I'm an older sister to 4 siblings, and my youngest brother is in preschool. I love animals; my family has three cats and a dog. Tennis has helped me learn to meet deadlines, stay healthy, and stay involved in my community. I have a lot of wonderful friends and a great support network - but I think it's so important to stay true to yourself, so I take time to read and draw. I want to thank my Dad, Coach Lo, grams and grandma, my whole family, the USTA Foundation, USTA, Deloitte, and Althea for being and inspiration.


Aiyanna's Story

Unlocking Success: Empowering others to reach for help.

As a person who has depended on the help of others throughout my entire life, the quote, "No matter what accomplishments you make, someone helped you," resonates deeply with me. It is a powerful reminder that none of us are successful solely on our own. Whether it is the support of family, friends, or colleagues, or the guidance of mentors and teachers, we all rely on the help of others to reach our goals and achieve our dreams. Althea Gibson's athletic development and commitment to her success were realized by the support of others, allowing her to explore her numerous talents.

In my years at Opportunity Tennis Academy (OTA), I have met many amazing players and coaches who have shaped my experience playing tennis. While there are many, a select few standout as they have positively impacted my tennis skills and my life. One of the select few is Coach Ashlee; she has always encouraged me to overcome obstacles in the most exhausting times of need, providing significant support that has allowed me to believe my goals are achievable. Ms. Lynnette, Co-Director of Education, emphasized the importance of being willing to receive help. Ms. Lynnette taught me to pause and reflect on my future choices. This skill has helped relieve my stress and not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that lie ahead in my life. Finally, Coach Lo has also been an integral part of this group, providing essential equipment, tireless support, and constant motivation. These individuals have positively impacted my views on tennis, and I have been highly encouraged by every one of them to continue to strive for the best.

Tennis has played a significant positive role in shaping my future. The help and support I received from people in the OTA community has been instrumental in helping me overcome my lack of motivation and find purpose in many aspects of my life. Through tennis and OTA, I have learned the value of hard work, discipline, and perseverance. These values have led to a 3.5 high school GPA, full-time summer employment as a lifeguard, and overcoming the debilitating challenges of mental health.

The sport of tennis, and OTA, taught me to set goals, work towards them, and never give up, no matter how challenging the situation may be. The lessons I learned on the tennis and education court have helped me develop a strong work ethic and a positive attitude towards life. These lessons have given me the confidence, much like Althea Gibson, to pursue my dreams with no fear of failure and to achieve success in any career I choose. The support and guidance I received from the OTA community has been invaluable, and I am grateful for the positive impact it has had on my life.

Information provided by the USTA Foundation.


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