The new Tennis for America service year will place AmeriCorps VISTA members across the country to utilize their extensive tennis backgrounds and academic credentials to add significant value to the organizations that are making important progress fighting poverty and creating opportunity within their communities.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), in partnership with four nationally recognized tennis and education organizations, launched a new national service program, Tennis for America (TFA). 

“Tennis for America gives our network of college graduates who played college tennis the opportunity to use their talents to give back to some of the most vulnerable communities and students across America,” Timothy Russell, CEO of the ITA, which is the host organization for this new national service initiative, said. “We know tennis can change lives, but coupled with national service, it can change the country for the better.”

The launch of Tennis for America was supported by private sector partners and the corps members are sponsored by AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as catalysts for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions to address poverty. VISTA was created in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, but has never utilized sports at scale to address this national challenge, until now.

“We are very excited about this new national service initiative to bring tennis, and the many skills and opportunities it provides, to fight poverty in communities across the country,” John Hosteny, State Program Director of VISTA at the Corporation for National and Community Service, said. “This first-of-its-kind national service program allows varsity tennis athletes to continue playing the sport they love, help eliminate poverty by building the capacity of local organizations, and mentor youth in communities in need for one year.” 

The four locations of Tennis for America are: New York Junior Tennis & Learning in South Bronx, New York; Sloane Stephens Foundation in Compton, California; Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland; and, XS Tennis in Chicago, Illinois.

Sloane Stephens, Grand Slam-winning tennis player and Founder of the Sloane Stephens Foundation, said, “I’m thrilled to welcome our VISTA Fellows, Gianna, Ivan, and Natalia, to the Sloane Stephens Foundation to begin their year of service. Now more than ever, it is so important to come together and inspire the next generation of tennis players and world changers. We look forward to an amazing year growing the reach of SSF and helping each fellow personally develop in the process.”

TFA secured eight athletes for its pilot year to serve across four partner locations. Each fellow brings unique strengths to the program and although their experiences will look different, they will be united by their work to help build the capacity of each partner organization. Their biographies are below.

“After four years of college tennis, and reflecting on all of the family members, coaches and community members who supported me, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to students and communities by sharing my love of tennis and all it can do to build a successful life,” Natalia Munoz, a graduate of California State University Long Beach, four year college tennis player who volunteered at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, and a representative of the entire class of Tennis for America Corps members, said.

In this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Tennis for America VISTAs will make a difference in the world through hands-on experiences, learn critical 21st century skills such as problem-solving and communication, and strengthen their network. Tennis for America Corps members receive a living allowance and an education award through AmeriCorps VISTA for their year of service. 

Dave Mullins, ITA Managing Director of Community Engagement & Coach Empowerment, is excited to see the impact Tennis for America will have on the communities of its partner organizations.

“Our partner organizations at the various sites see the high value of Tennis for America and are excited to engage Tennis for America Corps members to expand their efforts to reach vulnerable students with programs that change lives,” Mullins said. “This incoming class of Tennis for America Corps members is stunning and ready to serve others.”

Tennis for America has come at a critical time for our country. National service is healing for those serving and those in the communities being served. It brings together people from all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities in shared work to help the nation. 

John Bridgeland, Founder & CEO of Civic and Vice-Chair of the Service Year Alliance, Chaired by Four-Star General Stanley A. McChrystal, shared the idea for Tennis for America when he accepted the ITA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

“In every generation, Americans who have undertaken national service have emerged more connected to their generation and more invested in our country,” Bridgeland said. “Tennis for America can help heal divisions in our nation right at a time when we need that healing the most. And it can be a great model for other sports to emerge with similar efforts to engage young people in serving their country.”

Tennis for America hopes to change the lives of youth around the country and of Tennis for America Corps Members themselves with the power of sports and service. 

If you or a young person you know are interested in joining Tennis for America as early as next year, reach out to Dave Mullins, [email protected], to learn more. 

About the Intercollegiate Tennis Association

Originally founded in 1956 by the legendary UCLA men’s tennis coach, J. D. Morgan, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body of college tennis, overseeing men’s and women’s varsity tennis at all levels – NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College. Officially incorporated in 1978 as the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association (ITCA), for over the past four decades the ITA has worked hard to achieve its charter goals: (1) “To foster and encourage the playing of intercollegiate tennis in accordance with the highest tradition of sportsmanship and consistent with the general objectives of higher education.” (2) “To develop among the intercollegiate coaches a deeper sense of responsibility in teaching, promoting, maintaining, and conducting the game of tennis.” And, (3) “To educate and serve those individuals and groups who are involved in collegiate tennis: junior and college players, their coaches and parents, and the at-large tennis public.” 

About Tennis for America

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in conjunction with four nationally recognized partners, will work together in the years to come to help tackle poverty through tennis in the United States. Tennis for America Corps members will be placed throughout the country to utilize their elite tennis backgrounds and academic credentials to add significant value to the organizations who are making tremendous impacts within their communities.

About AmeriCorps VISTA

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members bring passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions.

Tennis For America VISTAs

Ivan Derrick

School: Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA (D3)
Major: Economics (Minor: Interdisciplinary Writing)
Hometown: London, UK
Placement City: Los Angeles (Sloane Stephens Foundation)
Background: 2 Time Academic All American; Dean’s List; 2 Year Captain of Men’s Tennis; Award Winning Writer for University Newspaper; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps at Both UCLA & USC during College Summers; Intern at John McEnroe Tennis Academy Coaching & Filming Players

Gabriella Hesse

School: Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL (D2)
Major: Communication (Interpersonal and Organizational Advertising & Public Relations); Minor: Political Science
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO.
Placement City: College Park, MD (Junior Tennis Champions Center)
Background: Academic & Tennis Scholarships; President, Florida Southern College Honors Program; 2 Year Captain of Women’s Tennis; MVP 2018-19; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps; Wheelchair Tennis Internship; Social Media Marketing Intern for a Tennis Company.

Gianna Insogna

School: Fordham University, Bronx, NY (D1)
Major: Philosophy (Minor: Bioethics)
Hometown: Westlake Village, CA
Placement City: Los Angeles (Sloane Stephens Foundation)
Background: Summa Cum Laude; Dean’s List; Captain of Women’s Tennis; MVP 2017-2018; ITA Scholar-Athlete Award; Fordham University Emerging Leaders Cohort; Student-Athlete Advisory Council; Pre-Med with Hundreds of Hours Volunteering in Hospitals and for The Red Cross; Proficient in Spanish.

Emily Lombardi

School: Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT (D1)
Major: Information Systems
Hometown: Glen Carbon, IL
Placement City: New York City (NYJTL)
Background: Loyola Academic Scholarship; Dean’s List; Recruiting Video Creator for Fairfield University; Captain of Women’s Tennis; 2019 Women’s MACC Champion Team; Saint Louis Children’s Hospital Teen Life Council Member as a Stage III Cancer Survivor; Volunteer Teaching Tennis to Special Needs Children; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps

Natalia Munoz

School: California State University, Long Beach, CA (D1) 
Major: Film & Electronic Arts with an Emphasis on Writing (Minor: Entrepreneurship)
Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA
Placement City: Los Angeles (Sloane Stephens Foundation)
Background: Full Time Tennis Scholarship; 2 Year Captain of Women’s Tennis; Big West All Conference First Team; Big West Player of the Week; LA County Board of Supervisors Award, Female Athlete of the Week; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps at LA Tennis Clubs during College Summers

Austin Russell

School: Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL (D1)
Major: Business Marketing 
Hometown: Plainfield, IL
Placement City: Chicago (XS Tennis)
Background: 5x Dean’s List; University Certification as a Digital Specialist; 2x Athlete of The Week; Captain of Men’s Tennis; Extensive Experience Coaching Both Top Players and Youngsters at Both Clubs & Camps; ITF Pro Tour Experience as a Player

Justin Samples

School: Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA (D2)
Major: Physics (Minor: Math)
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Placement City: New York City (NYJTL)
Background: Magna Cum Laude; Sigma Pi Sigma; Phi Beta Kappa; National Society of Black Engineers; Post Grad Year as a Research Scientist at Columbia University; All Conference Morehouse College Singles & Doubles Teams; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps;  Proficient in Spanish.

Ava Todd

School: Davidson College, Davidson, NC (D1)
Major: Religious Studies
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Placement City: College Park, MD (Junior Tennis Champions Center)
Background: Magna Cum Laude; Phi Betta Kappa; Lowell Bryan Scholarship; 3 Year Captain of Women’s Tennis; 3x MVP; Undefeated in Conference Singles Matches; Davidson College Female Athlete of the Year; Atlantic 10 All Conference 1st Team; Experience Teaching Tennis & Running Camps; Post Grad Year of Service for College Advising Corps/AmeriCorps; Proficient in Spanish.

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