The USTA Foundation honored the 10 winners of the 17th annual National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) Arthur Ashe Essay Contest. The winners, ranging in ages from 9 to 18, were selected out of more than 3,000 entries submitted this summer. Each winner received a New York City travel package that synced up with the opening weekend of the US Open.
This year’s essay contest focused on highlighting NJTL co-founder Charlie Pasarell. Arthur Ashe, along with Pasarell and their friend Sheridan Snyder, co-founded NJTL in 1969. The goal was to develop a program that would have a positive impact on under-resourced children by introducing them to tennis, keeping them off the streets and encouraging them to stay in school. Part of Pasarell’s focus throughout his tennis career was finding ways to utilize the game to give back to the community.
To enter the contest, students were asked to write an essay of 350 words or less, responding to a specific question about Pasarell. This year’s question asked: “Who is a local NJTL hero in your community that resembles what Mr. Pasarell did through NJTL?”
This year’s Arthur Ashe essay contest focused on highlighting NJTL co-founder Charlie Pasarell.
Each winner received round-trip airfare to New York City for himself/herself and a parent/legal guardian plus a two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt 42nd Street and VIP status in the President’s Box during the 2015 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on August 29 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The weekend wrapped up with an awards luncheon on the following day, hosted by USTA Foundation Chairman and former world No. 4 James Blake and former New York City Mayor and USTA board member David Dinkins. The luncheon was held at the Yale Club, where the Arthur Ashe essay contest winners received an honorary plaque.
The winning essays were selected based on message clarity and writing style. Contestants in the 15-16 and 17-18 age categories were asked to include a photograph of their local NJTL hero. The local heroes of each winning contestant in this category also received an opportunity to accompany the students to New York City.
The 10 winners of the 2015 Arthur Ashe Essay Contest were selected in the following categories:
“We want to congratulate this year’s Arthur Ashe Essay Contest winners and commend them on their ability to so aptly communicate the positive impact their NJTL hero has played in their lives,” said Dan Faber, USTA Foundation Executive Director. “The USTA Foundation is excited to honor NJTL co-founder Charlie Pasarell through this annual tradition. His work and influence continues to impact today’s NJTL participants through the leaders who work tirelessly to uphold the mission and goals set-forth by Pasarell, Ashe and Snyder.”
In January 2014, the USTA Foundation, combined with USTA NJTL, a national network of 500 community-based tennis and education programs serving more than 225,000 youth, to become a fully operational foundation. NJTL has impacted millions of kids throughout the country over the past 46 years, making it the largest grassroots tennis program in the United States.
(Photo: USTA/Steven Freeman)