New York Junior Tennis & Learning Strengthens Mental Wellness Initiatives for Underserved Youth in NYC

New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) is mobilizing a breadth of new efforts to bring mental wellness to the forefront of its programming, including the expansion of social work services and access to mental health resources. The mission of NYJTL is to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court. NYJTL continues to launch various initiatives to ensure that the underserved populations that it serves have the life skills to prosper. 

As most students returned to school last year for the very first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges faced by these communities were especially exacerbated, making the need for mental health access more essential than ever before. A citywide Health Department survey found that 1 in 5 parents or guardians reported the emotional or behavioral health of a child in their home had been negatively affected by the pandemic, and for one-third of respondents, the emotional and social well-being of a child had been a source of stress.

“The pandemic opened our eyes to the critical importance of social functioning,” says NYJTL President & CEO, Udai Tambar. “The pandemic caused a significant delay in the crucial development stages for many of these kids, and our program actively mitigates this issue.” 

To address this urgent need, NYJTL has hired a full-time social worker, Quiana Ware, who is dedicated to improving the lives of underserved youth through mental wellness programming and social emotional learning in the ACES Afterschool Program.   

“Many of these families had very limited knowledge on their availability to various resources,” says Ware. “Our initiatives encourage families to reframe their perspective on the importance of mental health, and gives their children safe spaces to shine brighter and grow into themselves.” 

Ware graduated from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, whose pilot collaboration with NYJTL recently expanded to bring social work interns to seven ACES sites to provide social-emotional support groups and mental health referrals to the students in its after-school programs across the city. 

Ware, and the social work interns from the Silberman School, lead an assortment of creative activities that meet the needs of the young ACES participants such as emotion management, strengthening social skills through collaboration, addressing barriers to participation, and more. Many sites in the ACES Afterschool Program have created innovative ways to promote wellness at their school, such as PS012K’s Animal Room for Empathy and De-escalation Room, as well as PS009K’s Wellness Room.  

NYJTL continues bridging access to resources for underserved communities across all five boroughs, promoting a lifetime of success for its participants on and off the court.  

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.


Sadia Saba
Communications & Content Specialist