A $10 million dollar tennis center is the newest addition to southeast D.C. It's filled with children who may not normally be drawn to tennis. It's mission is to serve the neediest children in D.C.
Eleni Rossides is the executive director of the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation or WTEF. The D.C. native was a tennis star herself and in the 1990's she played the women's professional tennis tour including the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.
After tennis, she got a graduate degree and went into business. But tennis pulled her back - more specifically, the lessons of tennis.
"Tennis give them a lot of confidence and a lot of focus," she says. "It teaches them they can rely on themselves."
WTEF serves 1,000 kids a year free of charge. They learn the game and get help with schoolwork. But the point is not to create world class tennis players.
"It's to create world class people and to really give these kids a chance in life," she says.
WTEF is a safe haven and family environment for children who often get neither of those things at home. Rossides leaned her business and management experience to help get this new center built, and now she gets to watch these children learn life lessons through her love, tennis. And what one young girl said to her made it all worthwhile.
Rossides also has three small children of her own. WTEF was the first program in the country to combine academics with tennis training, and Rossides says with the new center, the goal of WTEFis to double the number of children served.
"Sometimes I don't have a good day and I walk in the center and smile, you know, that's pretty amazing to know you're having that kind of an effect on children," she says.