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Oliver wins Ashe Essay Contest

September 10, 2015 05:04 PM
Mia Oliver, 2015 Arthur Ashe Essay Contest Winner


USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), honored the 10 winners of the 17th annual National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) Arthur Ashe Essay Contest on Sunday, Aug. 30 at the Yale Club in New York City. The winners, ranging in ages from 9 to 18, were selected out of more than 3,000 entries submitted this summer. Mia Oliver, 14, of Denver, was one of the 10 winners.

Oliver is a freshman at Denver Center of International Studies. She plays competitive tennis and enjoys participating with her Junior Team Tennis groups. Oliver volunteers at many of the local entry play days in the Denver community and enjoys helping others learn to play tennis. In 2104, she won the USTA Colorado – Charlie and Iran Brown Jr. Sportsmanship Award. She is a part of the East Side Tennis Association NJTL.

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?” (see Mia's essay below)

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 was held Saturday, Aug. 29, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The weekend wrapped up with an awards luncheon on Aug. 30, 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 essay contest winners received an honorary plaque.

 “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.


Mia's essay....

Tobias Ortegon is a remarkable man who resembles Charlie Pasarell as a local National Junior Tennis League hero in my community. Tobias has made a difference in so many kids lives when they didn't have any mentors. He helped break race barriers within many of his programs, giving back to the community in every way possible. There is to no extent of what he would do for his students, community and even strangers. He knows how to help and be there for kids and his community because when he was a kid he grew up in a diverse neighborhood, did not have much money or many opportunities. So he became a NJTL hero to make sure other people didn't have to go through what he did alone, to give them opportunities he did not have, and to make them better than he was. One of the programs he works on is called Star Search, kids from many diverse backgrounds and diverse lives are put together to learn or improve at tennis. This is an amazing experience for the kids and many will never forget it. Tobias teaches the kids that it doesn’t matter what background you come from, how much money you have or what the color of your skin is, but when your on the court sweating, having fun, running laps, improving and working as hard as you can we are all the same. No one is better then anyone else, we are all equals. This program changed many kids lives for the better and made the community stronger as a whole. Tobias has no idea how many lives he has changed and the kids can never repay him for the life lessons, discipline or the successful mindset he has given each one of his students. Being a hero requires courage to put everything you have into what you do and when things get tough to not give up, and that is exactly what Tobias Ortegon has done. Making a difference in a community of kids lives may not change the world but it changes their world. 



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