At-risk D.C. youth learn tennis, life skills from local legend

(Photo courtesy DCJohn via Flickr)

At-risk youth in D.C. are turning their lives around by hitting the tennis court. The program director at the Washington Tennis Education Foundation is changing lives—one game at a time.

Once Arthur Ashe's doubles partner—Willis Thomas now runs the Arthur Ashe children's program, WTEF,{ }in northwest D.C.

“You know, we try to deal with the whole child here and not just his tennis strokes but how they do in the classroom. We tend to follow them their whole lives, through college and afterwards,” Thomas said.

This program teaches underprivileged children critical life skills.

“To play an individual sport you have to depend on yourself, you start to get a lot of confidence in yourself,” Thomas said.

The underlying emphasis is on education, with tutors making sure the kids are winning in the classroom too. Seventeen year-old Monique Graves now hopes to get a college tennis scholarship and become a structural engineer.

“This program is like my second home. I really care so much about it. It really has helped me change and become the person I am,” Graves said.

Fourteen year-old Michael Robinson has been in the program for just a year.

“I'm building myself up and shaping myself into something that's more like a better person that what I was,” Robinson said.

And Angel Jordan's mother can't believe the transformation she's seen in her daughter.

“You want to see your kids strive further in life and this is a program that will give them that opportunity,” Jordan said.

With Willis’ help, these young people have a good shot at a great life.