March marks month eight of my year of service with Tennis for America at JTCC (Junior Tennis Champions Center) in College Park, Maryland. It has been an exciting and busy month here as Ava Todd (my Tennis for America counterpart) and I work to fulfill JTCC’s mission of “Tennis for Everybody.” As a Tennis for America Fellow, my role is very versatile and I’ve been involved in a number of community outreach, marketing, and business development projects. 

Hesse leading the JTCC’s Youth Impact Community Outreach program. Photo provided by: Hesse

In the fall, Ava and I adapted JTCC’s Youth Impact Community Outreach program to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a normal year, we would be going into schools and community centers to introduce youth in Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland to tennis. Currently, we are preparing for the third 10-week session of the virtual Youth Impact program, which teaches tennis skills via Zoom and provides youth with free racquets and tennis balls. 

The program not only introduces elementary-age children to tennis but gives interested and motivated players a pathway to continue playing the sport – regardless of economic status. Our Phase 2 program brings these players who started in virtual tennis into JTCC for a free 10-week training session. Ava and I are wrapping up our first session of Phase 2 with a graduation ceremony at the end of the month. Players who graduate Phase 2 are given a scholarship to participate in a session of JTCC’s Junior Development program. Rising WTA star Robin Montgomery was introduced to tennis through JTCC’s Youth Impact program.

Another project I am passionate about is developing a wheelchair tennis program. JTCC in partnership with MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital kicked off a weekly program for adaptive players earlier this month. I gained a ton of experience planning for the program – including designing a budget proposal and coordinating logistics. I now assist in coaching the adaptive players, even playing a few times in a sports wheelchair myself, and have learned so much from being on court with the athletes. 

Hesse assisting with the JTCC’s wheelchair tennis program. Photo provided by: Hesse

I’ve also been involved with coaching Tennis Corps, our military veteran’s tennis program, and am assisting in the planning stages for the return of our Special Olympics program. It’s thrilling to work for an organization that has a strong dedication to providing tennis for everybody. 

Outside of community outreach, I have gained immense experience working on the marketing side of the organization. I now run JTCC’s social media pages (follow us @thejtcc) and have learned so much in the process of how to effectively share and market all facets of our organization. I have also been heavily involved in the creation of our new website which launched this month, including writing copy and press releases, taking pictures, and selecting design elements. I’ve created marketing materials such as flyers and brochures for various programs and events, which has really grown my graphic design skills. 

As I approach the last three months of my Tennis for America experience, my efforts are mainly focused on the relaunch of our Special Olympics program, preparation for our annual gala (held virtually), and growth in my marketing and graphic design skills. I am excited to announce that I will be staying at JTCC after my year of service is completed in the role of Marketing Manager, where I will oversee marketing and social media initiatives as well as the operations of our adaptive (Tennis Corps, Wheelchair Tennis, and Special Olympics) community outreach programming. 

I would strongly encourage any college seniors or recent college graduates to apply for the program if they are interested in gaining business or marketing experience and love the sport of tennis. I am truly grateful for the opportunity and experience the Tennis for America program has provided me to pursue my dreams and start my career doing work that I love.

Interested in becoming a Tennis For America fellow? Applications are open until April 4, 2021. Learn more about the application process.

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 the experiences of Tennis For America Fellows!

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