From Englewood to US Open: After-school tennis program inspires - KMSP-TV

From Englewood to US Open: Tennis program inspires young students

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Tennis is a game that's usually played and learned in upscale country clubs and suburbs, but the game is now coming to inner city kids. The students are not just learning how to swing a racket; they're also taking a shot at life.

"It's gonna provide a stimulus and new opportunities for those kids who never thought that someone from the South Side of Chicago could not only go to school on a tennis scholarship but also become number one in the world," Kamau Murray of Tennis Xspress explains.

Kamau Murray says he's helping about 2,000 students in Chicago and in the suburbs learn to play tennis, so the game can prepare them for the rest of their lives.

"In Chicago, this is the home to Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose but 20 percent of all Division 1 college scholarships tennis scholarships go unused every year so we're just exposing these kids to a positive pathway to college," Murray explains.

Tennis Xspress is a non-for-profit  mobile tennis and after-school mentoring program. It's the largest in the nation specializing in giving kids--in areas like Roseland and Englewood---a chance to stay off the streets and away from the gangs and guns.

For the students who can't make it to the tennis club weekly, the courts, nets, balls and tennis rackets are set up in a Chicago Public School gym.

The students realize it isn't just about what they're learning about the game and life from the instructors. It's more about what they're learning from each other.

"We try to gel and blend all our groups together," says Murray. "The kids from the North Side, the kids from Hyde Park, the kids from Englewood and the kids from Roseland and let them positively influence each other."

The tennis students spent the holiday weekend at the U.S. Open in New York. They went to a couple of the matches, did some sightseeing, and the most fun: watching one of their own on the court at the U.S. Open.

Taylor Townsend played in a doubles match. She grew up in Englewood near 65th and Racine. Now, she's showing these kids special things happen to special and talented people.

The students are hoping with hard work and dedication that goodness rubs off, but right now, they're set on this mentoring program.

"It gives me something to do after school so I'm not like those people who just go home and watch TV on the couch all day," says 5th grade tennis player Corinne Salter.

17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who started with this group, is now one of the top junior players in the game. Last year, she won the Australian open and is looking forward to professional events.

For more information on Tennis Xspress, contact Kamau Murray at 773-548-7529.

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