Tennis in the 'Hood Helps Youngsters to Learn

Tue, 09/18/2007 - 5:04pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Tennis In The 'Hood Helps Youngsters To Learn

When Jinaki Wilson was growing up in the Delta of Mississippi, it never occurred to her that she would one day be teaching tennis to youngsters with one or more incarcerated parents in Georgia.

She had seen the game played on television and found it fascinating. Though she played basketball in high school, she was encouraged by her physical education teacher to learn tennis.

Fortunately she and the game took to each other and she was awarded a tennis scholarship at Rust College in Mississippi, where she majored in Political Science.

Wilson noticed that wherever she lived, there were tennis courts not being used, and children who needed attention. Drawing them onto the tennis courts gave the youngsters confidence in doing something new, as well as using the opportunity to help them with homework. This would help the children to feel good about themselves, no matter what their home environment might be like. "It empowers their young minds," Wilson said, "through tennis and academics. The organization provides a safe after-school environment, and provides a creative place for positive learning to take place."

Now we get to the part where you can have a place in this process. Mentors are very much needed. You can provide these children with a positive role model. Statistics show that children of incarcerated parents are at
greater risk of substance abuse and involvement in the criminal justice system. Having supportive adults will give these young people an opportunity to become successful.

You can help break the cycle by establishing a one-on-one relationship. You have a unique opportunity to participate in variety of exciting and rewarding activities.

These could include sports, cultural events, games and, of course, tutoring. If you feel you could agree to a one-year commitment to the program, commit to spending a minimum of one hour a week with the mentee, agree to attend mentor trainings as required, complete the screening procedure, which includes a criminal background check, and would communicate regularly with the program, Tennis In The 'Hood has a spot for you.

Mentors come from varied backgrounds, business professionals, athletes, teachers, or retired persons. They make a friend, and they make a difference.

It has been along road for Wilson, who is celebrating ten years this year with her Children of Promise Mentoring Program. While she has a van that will hold 12 children, she uses it to visit historical sites, museums, anything that gives the children a break, as well as places that will hold their interest and teach them something new. On her wish list, of course, is a bus, but in the meantime that van gets lots of use, making the same trip several times to include all the children who want to go.

"Even in the communities where 80 percent of the children do well on national tests, the other 20 percent must be addressed," she said. She lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Johnny Wilson Jr., a daughter, Ojwanna, age 13, a student at Bennett's Mill Middle School, and son, Haki Wilson, age 5, a student at Spring Hill Elementary. Tennis In The 'Hood, Inc. is located at 105 Commerce Driver, Suite F; Fayetteville, and can be reached at 770-716-1690. Its web address is

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