The Power of Tennis: Joshuah Gyebi and Dylan Chervony

Tennis has the power to change lives, and the unique influence of this sport can be seen in the stories of Joshuah Gyebi, 18, and Dylan Chervony, 15. Joshuah and Dylan were both students at Icahn Charter School 2, located in the Bronx, where they participated in the NYJTL ACES Afterschool Program throughout middle school. Now, the two are ACES graduates and have made it into their high school varsity and junior varsity tennis teams at the prestigious Fordham Preparatory School.

Though at the time the ACES program was new at their school, Joshuah and Dylan quickly became active in the program. Joshuah resonated the most with tennis amongst his peers. Victor Ayudant, his coach and the Recreational Coordinator for ACES, saw the potential and drive in him. Because of this, he would take Joshuah to play every weekend at the nearby Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning.  Joshuah recalls that he would lose terribly at every one of these matches, but that did not deter him. The greatest lesson he has learned from the experience was the importance of perseverance. “You need to be there for the highs and lows,” Joshuah says. Eventually, Joshuah sharpened his skills and became captain of Icahn 2’s ACES tennis team for three years in a row. Similarly, Dylan’s love for tennis started when he began at ACES. Previously having played basketball, he said “tennis gave me a very different feeling.” Dylan loved the unique skills he was learning in the sport. After some time he, too, became captain of the ACES team. Joshuah and Dylan competed in several NYJTL tournaments such as the President’s Cup, ACEster Cup, and the Mayors’ Cup, now known as the Mayor Dinkins Cup.

Joshuah and Dylan are not the only two individuals who benefited from Victor’s passion for helping young people reach their full potential. To create a sense of community and promote play, Victor brings students from Icahn 2, where he first started as a coach, to play tennis at the Cary Leeds Center on weekends. They practice drills, play matches, and sharpen their skills all while having fun on the court. Joshuah and Dylan were once those children that Victor would bring, but now they help lead the sessions and mentor the young students from Icahn 2. “I want to teach them about leadership. By helping me coach, they learn how to lead by example,” says Victor.  

Tennis had an impact on both their lives beyond the tennis court, and played a pivotal role in both their personal growth. “I strived to do better in school just so I could join Coach Victor and play tennis,” Dylan remembers. “I’m hard on my kids. They know that the only way they could have fun with me on the court is if they are doing well in school. Tennis and education go hand in hand,” says Victor. For Joshuah, the most important life skill he learned was discipline. Tennis taught him to understand his strengths, analyze his weaknesses, and do the same to his opponent. This taught him about self-reflection, and he found himself bringing this to other areas of his life such as school. “It helps me explore how I am doing well and how I can improve,” Joshuah says. The many years of playing tennis in ACES taught the boys much about sportsmanship, perseverance, and the ability to deal with adversity- both on and off the court. 

The mentorship and positive role models that NYJTL provided them throughout middle school were deeply influential in their success in tennis and in their own personal lives. Now, Dylan and Joshuah are ecstatic to be playing for their high school varsity tennis teams, and are still volunteers for NYJTL programs such as Serve and Connect with NYPD at the Cary Leeds Center. The boys are planning on attending college, and hope to continue to play tennis in their universities and beyond.  

NYJTL ACES Program Partners with Silberman School of Social Work

New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) is proud to announce a unique partnership with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College to provide direct services to the students and families we serve. Social work trainees from the Silberman School are being placed in the ACES Afterschool Program (ACES) in NYC public schools and will meet with ACES students to provide social emotional learning workshops, family and outreach support, and peer mediations for 15 hours per week. The additional placement time will consist of training in group work, group supervision, individual supervision, training on social work in schools, and needs assessment and program planning. This will include working with school administrators and leaders, program/event planning and preparation, community organizing, and other duties.  

“The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College is very pleased to partner with NYJTL so that our social work interns may provide services and support to children across New York City,” says Silberman School of Social Work Program Director Caroline Gelman, Ph.D.  “NYJTL’s mission aligns closely with the core values of the social work profession and we are proud to engage in this creative partnership. We expect that direct practice with the children at five different sites will be beneficial for both Silberman interns and NYJTL scholars and we look forward to seeing many positive results.”  

“This partnership with the Silberman School of Social Work is the perfect complement to the work we do in underserved communities,” says NYJTL President and CEO Udai Tambar. “Especially with the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more critical that we take a mental health approach to support our young people.”  

One of NYJTL’s core values is healthy living, which includes a commitment to physical exercise, nutrition, and mental wellness. Safeguarding mental health is a priority for NYJTL, especially in our service to communities who have historically been underserved in the city. The support offered by the social work students adds to the social emotional learning lessons that are regular components of ACES curriculums.

About NYJTL:

The mission of New York Junior Tennis & Learning is to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court.  Since 1971, NYJTL has changed lives through tennis, education, healthy living, and character development programs.  Today, it is the largest youth tennis and education non-profit in the nation, reaching more than 85,000 K-12 New York City youth.

NYJTL provides after school programming in approximately 30 schools and community tennis programming at approximately 40 sites throughout New York City in the summer months and at additional sites that operate during the school year.  In addition, NYJTL designed, funded (with NYC), built and operates the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning, at which it provides free and commercial tennis programming year-round as well as life skills, character development and healthy living lessons.  All NYJTL community tennis and after school programs are offered at no cost to its participants.

NYJTL is looking forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022!

Contact: Joe Ceriello
Chief Marketing & Development Officer
jceriello@nyjtl.org
(917) 693-6672

About the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College: 

The Hunter College School of Social Work, currently renamed the Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, was established in 1958 and is the oldest and largest public school of social work in New York. As part of CUNY, the Silberman School’s goal is to provide social work education of the highest quality at the lowest possible cost. Their location in the urban public system of New York City directs them to seek and encourage social work talent for and from the least advantaged in the population. The mission of the Silberman School of Social Work promotes civic engagement and dedication to public services in the City of New York. Their student body, field agencies, and alumni are the primary social work workforce of the public human service departments and not-for-profit agencies in New York City.

Contact: Caroline Rosenthal Gelman, Ph.D.
Master of Social Work
cgelman@hunter.cuny.edu
(212) 396-7542

ACES Programs Run Strong Despite Pressures from Pandemic

As students return to school in the new year, evolving circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s Omicron variant has created challenges for school administrators and families alike. New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) is dedicated to supporting our schools and participants’ families as we navigate the ever changing nature of the public health crisis we are currently facing.  

Approximately 300,000 students missed class on average this week in the country’s largest school district, which serves one million young people. With new cases of the COVID-19 virus proliferating citywide, attendance in the first week back to school after the winter recess hovered around 70 percent. NYJTL ACES staff is committed to continuing to deliver specialized, high-quality enrichment programming throughout all of our sites. ACES sites and staff have been working together to provide supplies to ensure the safe delivery of programs that abide by all health regulations. Depending on the different sites, schedules have been changed to address the needs of specific student populations. All staff have been working diligently to support school principals and families in managing the changing challenges of the pandemic. Undoubtedly, our staff, families, and school administrators have been demonstrating resilience and adaptability when met with the demands of today.  

Women’s Sports Foundation Provides ACES Afterschool with New Digital Sports Education Platform

The Women’s Sports Foundation has provided NYJTL’s ACES Afterschool Program (ACES) with We Play Interactive as a new feature to be used in classrooms citywide. NYJTL has previously been supported by WSF’s sports education curriculums and is excited to now have access to its new digital platform. We Play Interactive is a fully accessible online learning platform for program leaders to create an emotionally and physically safe environment that empowers girls to explore and grow through physical activity and sport. The educational platform will be integrated into many ACES classrooms and can be used anywhere, at any time for students across all abilities.

We Play Interactive provides theme-based activity modules with easy-to-follow lesson plans with warmups, movement-based activities, mindfulness activities, reflections, and more. This includes a substantive video library of renowned female athletes to share with program participants to spark discussion and connection. It also offers program leaders training modules to enhance their skills and build community. NYJTL is happy to introduce innovative technology into our ACES classrooms to empower under-served students through tennis and education, and promote community across the populations we serve.

ACES Launches Innovative Technology to Streamline Academic Support

Padlet is an educational technology that has recently been launched by our ACES Afterschool Program (ACES) and has innovated the way in which our staffadministrators, and parents interact. Padlet is a live bulletin board that allows for uniformity of agency and autonomy amongst our sites. It has served as an essential tool that streamlines core areas necessary for the effective operation of our programs promoting STEM, literacy, physical activity, arts, leadership, and nutrition for ACES participants. Each key player of ACES can view essential materials in real time, such as lesson plans, schedules, external training and resources, assessments, and more. 

The platform promotes creativity for these programs, which our staff has implemented through key themes. For example, this week P.S. 037Q’s Activities Padlet has a theme of “Being Thankful” and highlights lesson plans that detail specific activity processes and post-lesson assessments focused on gratitude. Every site is unique, so Padlet allows ACES Site Directors to personalize their online bulletins to meet the needs of their distinctive schools. Moreover, because Padlet fosters a virtual community, ACES participants can still benefit from our enrichment programming even when circumstances disallow them from attending in person.