By Ivan Derrick

My name is Ivan Derrick, and I am one of the Tennis for America fellows at the Sloane Stephens Foundation (SSF). The Foundation seeks to help shape constructive futures for youth by providing educational opportunities and encouraging healthy lifestyles while also cultivating a new generation of tennis players. I began my year of service in June of last year and, consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in all my work and forced me to work entirely remotely thus far.

During my first week my fellow VISTAs, Gianna Insogna and Natalia Munoz, and I were tasked with assisting with the Foundation’s summer camp which had been forced entirely online. Coming up with eight weeks of tennis and education virtual programming was a challenging first assignment, but one we were all very keen to see succeed. My focus became recruiting guest speakers to join our online sessions and we were very lucky to have a number of top collegiate tennis players from USC and UCLA join us, as well as Roger Federer’s former coach Paul Annacone! 

The guest speakers seemed to be received very well by the youth in our program as they could relate to the college players and see the great opportunities tennis could present to them both on and off the court. It was also important in that it developed a relationship between SSF, USC and UCLA that I’m sure will be very beneficial in the long run.

While the summer camp was a great experience, I now spend most days focusing on grant writing for the Foundation. I work closely with the Foundation’s Director of Development, Lindsay Linhart, to identify and apply to grants that can support the Foundation financially. Thus far, we have been focusing on seeking grants that can assist the SSF’s primary program — Love, Love Compton. This program seeks to combat racial and financial inequalities through educational enhancements and the creation of safe places to play in one of the most underserved communities in the country — Compton, CA. The program began with Ms. Stephens and her mother Dr. Sybil Smith, Ed.D going into schools during recess and has now grown into afterschool, recess, weekend, and summer tennis and education programming in 25 schools across the Compton Unified Schools District. This substantial growth, with plans to expand even further, obviously does not come without a cost, so the grant money we are able to bring in can be hugely beneficial.

Each application is challenging and time-consuming and I’ve learned even top foundations have limited success rates when applying to grants. However, we have managed to raise over $100,000 for the Foundation in grants since I began my time with SSF which feels great as I know just how much that will benefit the students in our program. 

Now, finding myself a little over halfway into my year of service, I look forward to helping SSF achieve as much as possible during my remaining time. I’m very excited to continue developing our programming in Compton and also work with my fellow VISTAs to help produce a college prep program for our students.

The ITA’s national service program Tennis For America invests in college tennis graduates in order to fight inequality through tennis. Learn how you can support Tennis For America.

Learn more about Ivan & the Sloane Stephens Foundation!

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