Since 2008, A’s & Aces has been implementing its mission “to provide academic assistance, life skills and tennis for New Orleans public school children.” The name “A’s & Aces” was chosen to represent our student-athlete model and our emphasis on good grades and good tennis. Our programs are designed to address several crises that particularly affect New Orleans: illiteracy, violence/values, and obesity.
The number of children we regularly serve and retain has been steadily increasing each year, and we now impact over 750 children in our in-school, after-school and weekend programs each week throughout the academic year, and in 3 summer camps. With ten full/part-time staff and over 100 regular volunteers throughout the school-year, we are able to address children’s individual needs while implementing our literacy, life-skills and tennis curricula.
We have several venues and age/grade-designed models. Currently, we partner with four schools to teach “physical literacy” and introduce QuickStart Tennis to over 500 1st and 2nd grade students during P.E. Our 3rd-5th graders can apply to our afterschool program at Dillard where classroom literacy projects and tennis court activities are thematically linked through our First Serve Life Skills Curriculum. Our goal is to help prepare these students to succeed academically, socially/emotionally and physically in middle school and beyond.
In 2011 our children began playing USTA Junior Team Tennis and A’s & Aces had more teams and participants than any other metro club, park or organization. By retaining participants and growing one grade per year, were able to start a public middle school tennis team in 2012. We run summer-long camps in partnership with NORDC, and we initiated programming at Pontchartrain Park in October 2012 with nearly 60 children.
Parental appreciation of our staff’s work is reflected by many testimonials similar to this:
[My son] has enjoyed participating in the A’s & Aces program and as parents we have enjoyed watching him learn and appreciate the sport of tennis. We are also pleased with the focus on academics that helps to reinforce the importance of a strong education for anything that you want to do or become.
A’s & Aces has been fortunate to have strong fiscal support over the past 5 years from scores of corporate sponsors, hundreds of individual donors, through government and foundation grants, and as a United Way Partner Agency. Our partnerships with Tulane and Dillard, AmeriCorps VISTA and Coach Across America and NORDC are only a few of the relationships that have made it possible to provide high-quality programming for so many.
In July 2011, A’s & Aces was proud to be chosen as one of three organizations for a national documentary “striving to educate people about social responsibility." The production company’s website described their selection criteria as follows:
America. 2011. What makes our nation great? For many it is the compassion, kindness, and selfless duty of millions of ordinary Americans: people who through their actions and efforts bring about a lasting change for the benefit of others. These people are what exemplify the ideals and values that our country was built upon.
The State of America is a documentary project, which aims to highlight individuals and grass roots organizations in communities across the country, whose sole objective is to positively alter the state they are in, in the State they are in.
Though the selection criteria was real, the “documentary” turned out to be a ruse to enable the surprise climax of a New Orleans episode of ABC’s national television show, Secret Millionaire. It is expected to air soon, possibly in November.
We are now planning to initiate a capital campaign to build a Tennis and Learning Center. The need for a home facility for A’s & Aces, and the resulting opportunity to create a more-viable social entrepreneurship model, is critical to the nonprofit’s ability to serve the increasing number of children who need our services and to its long-term sustainability.