A year ago, Gabriella Hesse and Ava Todd committed to Tennis for America. The two – who were strangers at the time – decided to take a chance on the brand new year-of-service program and spend a year working at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, Maryland.

Now, nearing the end of their year of service, the pair are close friends and have committed to full-time positions at the JTCC starting in July.

“Simply put, I wouldn’t be in this role without Tennis for America,” Hesse stated. “It has allowed me to get my foot in the door at this prestigious organization that I most likely wouldn’t have been qualified for an entry-level position at. Now, I’m starting at a management level position and am involved in projects that I absolutely love working on.”

In July, Hesse will begin her job as the JTCC’s Marketing Manager where she will oversee the Center’s marketing initiatives and community outreach programs. Likewise, Todd will take over as the Community Outreach Manager. She will oversee the Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program and help fundraise for various JTCC initiatives. 

Hesse and Todd working on-court sessions at the JTCC. Photo provided by Hesse.

From the start of their year of service, Hesse and Todd knew there was potential for them to secure post-program positions with the JTCC. As the year wore on, it became clear that they wanted to continue their work in Maryland after their year of service — and the JTCC staff wanted them to stay as well.

“Ava has shown an authentic dedication to the mission at JTCC – “Tennis for Everybody,” Lisa Regenbogen, JTCC Senior Director of Development, said. “She exhibits equal passion and capability for overseeing all aspects of our Neighborhood Youth Outreach program – from an operational perspective to coaching – which she does with incredible enthusiasm.”

“Gabby has all the aspects of a quality associate we look for at JTCC — hard working, passionate about tennis, and a great team player,” Joe Wilkerson, JTCC Senior Vice President, said. “But, what made us extend an offer beyond Tennis for America is her critical thinking and her ability to find answers and solutions without being directed. Additionally, Gabby also has a growth mindset which is a must as we strive to grow the game of tennis at JTCC.”

Through their involvement in all aspects of the business, Hesse and Todd formed a deep connection to the mission of the JTCC.

“By setting the standard for the tennis industry as an academy for junior high-performance tennis and as a nonprofit providing free tennis programming to underserved communities, it’s the national model of what American tennis should look like,” Hesse explained. “One of my favorite parts of working here is the ability to be involved with both the planning and execution of programs. I can work to develop our wheelchair tennis program Monday through Friday through marketing, scheduling, and communicating with partners in the back office and then go out on the court to coach the players on the weekend. I feel so connected to the work, and it makes it easy to stay excited and invigorated about the impact that JTCC has on the community.”

For Todd, her year with Tennis for America and the JTCC has opened her eyes to her passion for non-profit work.

“Through my service year with Tennis For America, I have been introduced to a variety of roles and responsibilities including fundraising, marketing, event planning, and on-court coaching,” Todd said. “By testing out these different fields, I learned more about my passion for equal access to tennis and growing the sport at the grassroots level.”

Todd coaching during an on-court session at the JTCC. Photo provided by Todd.

With the start date for their new roles getting nearer and nearer, the two are eager to connect with the College Park community through the JTCC’s outreach programs.

“The most meaningful part of my work is developing and coaching in the adaptive Community Impact programs, and I am looking forward to seeing these programs reach more people in a post-COVID-19 setting,” Hesse stated. “The Wheelchair Tennis program has grown exponentially throughout our spring session, and in June we will restart our Special Olympics tennis program which has been on pause since the onset of the pandemic. Our Tennis Corps Veterans tennis program has been operating at a limited capacity, and I definitely look forward to getting our JTCC Champions program players involved in volunteering with the programs.”

With covid-19 restrictions slowly easing, Todd is looking forward to restarting the JTCC’s on-site tennis and academic instruction at area schools and recreation centers. 

Todd is also looking forward to incorporating next year’s Tennis for America fellows into the team. She believes Tennis for America is an invaluable launching board for graduating seniors.

“No matter what you may want to do in the future, you will gain valuable experience through the Tennis for America program,” Todd said. “There are not many jobs just out of college where young people get hands-on experience in so many different areas, and where you feel you are making an impact every single day. Tennis for America provides this opportunity.”

Applications for the second year of Tennis for America are available until May 30th, 2021. Learn more information about Tennis for America & apply today to make a difference in a community near you.

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