February 2012 Kenny’s Serve
Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education is determined to be more relevant in the lives of young people, families, and communities, especially those without abundant resources. In 2010, our Board of Directors, with the involvement of staff, parents, young people and other stakeholders, engaged in a year long process to create a 5-year strategic plan. In many ways, this plan has charted a course for ensuring that our programming is even more relevant and impactful for urban young people. Flowing from this process, a committee was convened under the leadership of board member Al Parker and former board member Letitia Biddle to develop recommendations for getting into in the business of formal education.
What does this mean? We believe that it is time for us to become involved with in-school education. Up to this point, we have been almost exclusively a provider of “out-of-school time” education and youth development programs. However, with a large center and campus that are dramatically underutilized during school hours, and several of our instructors eager for more opportunities to work with kids, we have decided to engage in a serious exploration to become a school for 50-80 children. The model selected by the Biddle-Parker Committee and adopted by our Board is a partnership approach. By partnering with a well-qualified education organization, AAYTE would marry our expertise in youth development, tennis and physical education, health and nutrition, and leadership and character building with the expertise of a well regarded educational provider. In essence, our chosen partner would deliver the core curricular subjects and we would deliver the co-curricular and extra-curricular parts of the program. This model would allow us to leverage the skills and experience of our organization to create a transformative educational experience for students from communities and groups that have traditionally been underserved by the educational system.
This potential school would not be a high end tennis academy for elite junior players. Instead, it would serve young people from primarily lower income families and communities who are dissatisfied with their current schooling environment. As you may be aware, data shows that over 50% of African American and Latino boys do not graduate from high school. While girls from these same communities graduate at higher levels, the data is still alarming.
A report produced by Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University, known in the education field as the “Early Indicators Study,” makes a compelling case that it is in the impressionable middle school years when young people decide whether they will get on or off the track for high school graduation. Middle schoolers who have a failing grade in one or more subject, have ten or more unexcused absences, and are involved in one or more serious behavioral incidents have a 70% chance of dropping out of high school. With two of these three early indicators, the middle school student has a 60% chance of dropping out of high school. Clearly a young person’s approach to their education during these formative years of early adolescence is pivotal to their future educational success.
For these reasons, we likely will be looking for an educational partner who can co-administer a school with us to provide an engaging, rigorous experience for students in the middle grades or late elementary grades. While we are unsure of the specifics of the school and business model which will emerge, we are 100% certain that an organization with our history, mission and capability must become involved in supporting many more of the holistic needs of young people including, for some, their formal education.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the place of formal education in the future of our organization.