By Jana Curry
Located in Ward 8, The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center serves community residents with a multi-functional recreation center. The main goal of the center is to help motivate kids in the District through its academic and athletic programs. “Tennis is the hook, education is the key,” said Cora Masters Barry, CEO of the Recreation Wish List Committee.
Since 1995, the Recreation Wish List Committee (RWLC) has worked to support and create safe places for the District of Columbia’s youth to grow and play. By bringing together public and private resources to enhance the city’s park and recreation programs and facilities, the RWLC strengthens neighborhoods and enhances young lives. The RWLC partnered with the District of Columbia’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to create the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.
Created in 2001, the Center includes 10 tennis courts, six outdoor and four indoor, a library/media room, several multi-purpose rooms, a computer lab, gym, pool and locker rooms. The Center offers tennis classes from age three through adult year round. The computer lab is available for students to use after school. Tutorial assistance is provided for homework and other studies. The center offers programs for students age 7-17 during the week and a weekend program for children age 3-6, Barry said. Children attending the center must have a 2.0 grade-point average in school to participate in the tennis program.
In 2011, The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center celebrated its 10th anniversary with honorary guest, Venus and Serena Williams. At the time of the anniversary, they commented, “Education goes hand in hand” with athletics. Venus Williams also said “The center is so important, because for us, it brings us full circle, growing up in Compton, CA. And coming back to here is similar, because we see young people who really are us,” Venus said. The young people Venus and Serena are referring to are our young people. The young people living East of the River and more specifically, those partaking in the activities at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.
Well over 2,000 children and teens have taken advantage of the Center over the past 12 years. The Center combines academics, cultural enrichment, technology and tennis to inspire young people to challenge themselves, take pride in their accomplishments, and value the efforts and achievements of others. The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center has found success in their approach of utilizing tennis instruction to attract at risk youth into a comprehensive learning environment.
Since it’s founding, about 4,000 kids have participated in the center’s programs, Barry said, and 30 have received tennis scholarships from schools including Penn State, Howard and Morgan State. Some of the youth have won several United States Tennis Association (USTA) sanctioned tournaments over the years, including the 2010 USTA Junior Team Tennis Mid-Atlantic Championship. Additionally, over 27 youth have been awarded four-year tennis and academic scholarships at colleges and universities around the country.
The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center is not only a building facility, but also a symbol of the rebirth and growth of our neighborhoods East of the River. The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center is the only public facility of its kind in the country’s urban center, and one of the very few publicly available and affordable indoor tennis court facilities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center will be the heart and soul of the East of the River tennis community.
The Center also serves as a model public/private partnership, sharing the resources and talents of the RWLC and the District of Columbia’s DPR. While RWLC provides overall direction and is the driving force behind the Center’s academic programs, DPR’s education and recreation staff play integral roles in both the academic and athletic programs.
The Southeast Tennis and Learning Center is more than just a tennis facility. It is a place where the therapeutic value of tennis is combined with education and self-motivation. It is a place where the youth of the community can come and find out who they really are on a field that is always level and a place that is always safe. The world of tennis helps children discover and achieve their potential. Through tennis training, they develop discipline, learn to compete, accept responsibility, and manage adversity.
For more information visit: http://www.recreationwishlist.org
Southeast Tennis and Learning Center
701 Mississippi Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20032
202.645.6241 Educational Department
202.645.6242 Tennis Department
From left to right: Cora Masters Barry (CEO of RWLC), Erik Moses (Senior Vice President of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA) , Serena and Venus Williams, Jeri Ingram (site director of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center), Jesús Aguirre (Director of DPR)