Hundreds of middle school students, volunteers, and former tennis champions swarmed the Murr Athletic Center April 26 for the Champions for Tenacity Celebrity Pro-Am and Clinic, an event celebrating the achievements of students in Tenacity’s After-School Excellence Program (ASEP).
Tenacity is an organization started in 1999 to get at-risk middle school students from Boston public schools into an after-school program that combines tennis and literacy tutoring.
Wednesday’s event featured about 40 students playing with and learning from the likes of professional tennis players Goran Ivanisevic, Jim Courier, and Mats Wilander in front of a crowd of parents and other enthusiastic supporters.
Harvard tennis coach Dave Fish, a key figure in the Harvard-Tenacity collaboration, was on hand to oversee many of the day’s events.
“He’s been involved with the program since its founding, and has been instrumental in Harvard’s involvement,” says Tenacity director Ned Eames of Fish’s contributions to the partnership.
Harvard’s involvement goes far beyond just providing tennis courts for the program. For four years the University has helped fund the program through Harvard After School Initiative grants. And there are over 25 Harvard students who devote countless hours teaching tennis, tutoring, and serving as mentors.
“It’s a wonderful collaborative effort with Tenacity and Harvard; it serves as a great connection between the community and our students,” says Fish.
Kevin Papay ’07 is the coordinator for CityServe, the student group that matches up Harvard volunteers with Tenacity students.
Over his three years working with Tenacity students, Papay has toted up plenty of success stories showing how Harvard volunteers’ interactions with the kids have resulted in more than improved grades and a better serve.
Carlos Lopes was exactly the type of at-risk student that Tenacity and CityServe try to help.
In 2000, Lopes immigrated with his family to Boston from Cape Verde, Africa. When he arrived he spoke no English and struggled in his studies at Edison Middle School in Allston. After successfully completing three years in the Tenacity program, Lopes made great strides both socially and academically. Next year he will be attending Tabor Academy on a full scholarship.
“The program has helped me to think smart and make better choices. … It has also helped me to stay out of trouble,” says Lopes.
Staying out of trouble is particularly difficult for some young students in Boston public schools. Just two years ago, one of Lopes’ friends and classmates was killed because of gang-related violence.
“[Tenacity] has helped me to be a good all-around person with patience and respect for others,” Lopes says.
Lopes’ story is just one example of the effects that Tenacity mentors can have on teens.
Says Fish, “The most important thing is that they’re seeing Harvard students who are putting in the time to serve as role models, and who help them to see the limitless possibilities that are available through hard work.”
Papay concurs, “Tenacity is a wonderful program with a lot to offer the community of Boston, and it makes me proud to know that Harvard students are a part of it.”