By: Dayna Worchel Photos: Rachel Benavides
Tennis Success Executive Director, Jacquelyn Robles Jones, is known to shed a few tears when young people recount how the nonprofit organization improved their lives. “The kids in the program tease me about crying so easily,” says Robles Jones, who has been at the helm of the 18-year-old organization for eight months.
The Tennis Success program, founded in 2000, is based at the HEB Tennis Center on Shely Street and is open to students from ages 4 to 18 who meet the requirements for free or reduced-price school lunches. Most kids go to the center to participate, but Tennis Success coaches also travel to some low-income CCISD campuses during the school year.
“It’s an amazing program. During the school year, we provide a free after-school program in the fall and in the spring with snacks. In the summer, the kids must pay $10 for two weeks as a part of our sustainability for our grants,” Robles Jones says. The fee covers special educational projects and academic enrichment for the student participants and helps students with scholarships. “We provide scholarships up to $1,000 per semester for up to five years,” she says.
Tennis Success also partners with Be a Champion, a Houston-based nonprofit, to provide lunches during the summer sessions. The organization delivers food daily and provides a refrigerator for food storage. “Sometimes, it’s the only meal the kids get during the day,” says Robles Jones.
Program participants enthusiastically praise the organization that gives them a chance. The Tennis Success team is family to 18-year-old Hailey Carrion, who graduated from Moody High School in June. Speaking fondly of Robles Jones, the young woman says, “I love Jacquelyn…I never thought a program would mean so much to me.”
Carrion, who has dealt with many life challenges, has seen positive results from participating in the organization’s educational enrichment and tennis programs. She has been involved in the program since her sophomore year at Moody High School and credits them with much of her success. “My grades went up, and I am the Tiny Tots Coach. It’s just the right mix of tennis and education,” she says.
Celso Gonzales, 17, who graduated from the Miller High School Metro program in June, says he had never played tennis before participating in Tennis Success. He calls the program “a safe haven” that changed his life by bringing out his passion for athletics and introducing him to new friends and adventures. “I was that kid who went to school and came home and played video games and went to sleep,” he says, adding that the Tennis Success educational program has helped him develop leadership skills and aided in his understanding of people.
Both Gonzales and Carrion do volunteer work for Tennis Success as a way to give back to the organization that helped them so much.
Keyla Berlanga, who will be in the seventh grade this fall, says the organization assisted her with homework and study skills. “They have taught me about strategy in tennis, good manners, and how to relate to people,” she says.
By encouraging and empowering low-income youth, Tennis Success helps open more doors to opportunity and happiness in the Coastal Bend.
For more information about Tennis Success and its programs, go to mytennissuccess.com or call 361-339-3679.