A love for tennis can lead to big success for area students, thanks to one local organization. Using tennis as a medium, A’s & Aces offers academic and educational opportunities for underserved children in the New Orleans area.
Anna Monhartova and David Schumacher founded A’s & Aces in 2008 to addresses the lack of after-school opportunities for local public school children. In particular, access to non-traditional activities such as tennis were limited. Because tennis encourages fitness, friendship-building and fun, it was an easy pick for this student-athlete program.
Although a lack of infrastructure presented early difficulties – many partner schools did not have gymnasiums, let alone tennis courts – the A’s & Aces team worked around these issues with creativity. They used the QuickStart mini tennis program, with portable nets and smaller courts, to bring the tennis experience to almost any location. With this setup, students across NOLA experienced tennis for the first time.
In addition to athletics, A’s & Aces focuses on academic achievement. Classroom literacy programs are linked to on-court activities, reinforcing the importance of education. Thanks to its after-school, in-school, break and weekend programs, A’s & Aces serves around 1,000 children each year. Helping children succeed from elementary school through college is the ultimate goal.
A’s & Aces students have already made a mark on the national tennis scene. Since 2011, A’s & Aces has had seven United States Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation Arthur Ashe essay winners, each of whom won a trip to a pro event. Furthermore, many of the program’s scholar-athletes are highly ranked tennis players in Louisiana, and over 50 of them play tournaments and travel for competition.
In addition to student achievements, the program itself has received accolades. In 2013, A’s & Aces was named the USTA’s National Junior Tennis and Learning Chapter of the year out of over 600 organizations nationwide. More recently, the organization’s co-founder received the Community Impact Award from Zurich.
A’s & Aces relies on the help of volunteers, partners and donors to fulfill its mission, and additional support is always welcome. At this time, the organization is seeking a more permanent residence.
“To fully implement its vision, A’s & Aces needs a home, a ‘hub’ where students can train together, have a safe, enriching space to learn, and explore their full potential beyond school,” says Monhartova. She hopes the program will provide every child access to the sport of tennis, as well as a pathway to college programming.