Hopefully, many of the youngsters who convened at Cypress Hills Tennis Club on Saturday came away with a sense of how powerful of a tool the sport of tennis can prove to be.
The United States Tennis Association Mississippi Junior Tennis League Rally brought together youths from all over the state for its sixth annual event that pushes camaraderie over competition and puts lifelong implications of great educational pathways and good health on full display.
“Last year, we had the event at Wards Recreation Center,” said event organizer Birlett Jelks. “We rotate the event every year between Greenville and Jackson.”
Jelks’ cohort, SB Buck, worked with elementary school students early in the day while Jelks worked with high school and middle school students.
Kids who are getting some early experiences in tennis benefit right away from talking with older kids and young adults who have gone through the USTA Junior program and used their participation in the sport to leverage college scholarships. Twin sisters and Greenville High School graduates Myesha and Nyesha Nealon are both attending Hinds Community College on the strength of the organization’s $10,000 Foundation Scholarship. The sisters are majoring in accounting and biomedicine, respectively.
Following in their footsteps is Leland High School 2021 graduate Yasmine Colon.
“I’ll be attending Hinds Community College majoring in interior design,” Colon said. “I’ve been playing tennis for about eight years.”
Chris Adams is heading into his junior year at Mississippi College and is making a transition into a leadership and organizing role for the annual rally.
“As I get a little bit older each year, it’s good to have young people around like Chris to take on a bigger role,” Jelks said. “But, the sport of tennis is something that keeps me going and it’s a sport that you can play at any point of your life whether you’re 9 or 90 and avoid many injuries associated with other sports.”