USTA Mid-Atlantic aims to create healthier, happier, and more active communities through tennis – even in difficult times. The coronavirus pandemic is posing challenges on many levels, especially for youth in the region. As schools and after school providers have shut down and transitioned to distance learning, one problem is the need for technology resources, especially in underserved communities, where these types of tools may not be present in the home.
Children now need access to sufficient technology to keep up with their education and enrichment activities, such as tennis. In Washington, D.C., alone, it’s estimated that nearly 30 percent of students “lack adequate access to the internet and proper devices.”(thehill.com) And according to an article in the Washington Post, “before the coronavirus crisis, only about 1 in 4 students in the high-poverty Baltimore City Public Schools had computers.”
“A number of students do not have access to computers or tablets outside of what is provided in school,” says Jeri Ingram, founder of Metropolitan Tennis Education Group.
In an effort to be a part of the solution, USTA Mid-Atlantic was able to repurpose an inventory of tablet devices to distribute to The ACE Project, the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF), and the Metropolitan Tennis Education Group (MTEG), three National Junior Tennis & Learning providers in the Mid-Atlantic whose programs are present in communities where the need is prevalent.
National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) providers help children in need through tennis and education. NJTLs are safe places for children to get support in academics and gain valuable exposure to tennis development. And while children can’t physically be present at their local NJTL right now, these entities are working hard to continue to help their students grow and learn by connecting with them virtually.
However, it is clear that the lack of technology resources could pose a barrier for children in their programs.
“The tablets are crucial,” says Matthew Chicola, director of philanthropy for The ACE Project in Baltimore, Md. “They will enable students who do not have access to technology devices to continue to participate in the program.”
The ACE Project Baltimore chapter was started five years ago in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray verdict as one method to bring healing to the community. With the closing of schools due to the pandemic, the Baltimore chapter shifted programming to a digital platform. Currently, they serve between 150 to 200 children.
The Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) is dedicated to building life champions through the sport of tennis. WTEF offers tennis and educational programming to underserved communities in Washington, D.C. The tablet donation will benefit WTEF’s Arthur Ashe Children’s Program which serves 179 students in 14 elementary schools. Ronnie Goodall, director of the Arthur Ashe Children’s Program, says the tablets will be like a “lifeline to each other, teachers, and classmates” for students and will help bring the program virtually to kids who are without digital access. “The kids get a kick out of seeing friends. It’s a healing connection.”
For Metropolitan Tennis Education Group, the tablets will allow them to “initiate digital learning in a number of capacities” according to Jeri Ingram. MTEG students, ages six through seventeen, will be able to participate in virtual programmings such as home training sessions, weekly zoom education series, and college preparation courses. Ms. Ingram further says that this donation also allows the staff “to enhance their offerings” by providing opportunities like one on one virtual tennis lessons.
“Now, more than ever, our youth need to feel connected to the tennis community that they have come to know so well and truly depend on,” says Lindsey Keeler, senior director of USTA programs and services at USTA Mid-Atlantic. “We’re happy to partner with these organizations to help ensure that children in these programs can maintain their participation. We really are so moved by all of the ways our tennis community is stepping up to help others and this is just one way we are doing our part too.” “Hopefully this will encourage others to see how they can find ways they can help as well. Everyone needs to be a part of the solution so that no one is left behind,” says Beth Twomey, chief operating officer at USTA Mid-Atlantic. Click here to find out how to help us continue supporting programs to underserved communities that will be most affected by this crisis.