Sandy Spring Bank Partners with Junior Tennis Champion Center to Serve Up Opportunities for Prince George’s County Youth

November 7, 2019
Junior Tennis Champion Center to Serve Up Opportunities for Prince George’s County Youth with Sandy Spring Bank Jeff Weidley & Sam Price

As the Junior Tennis Champion Center’s (JTCC) community outreach program, Sandy Spring Bank Advantage Prince George’s teaches tennis, academic, and life skills to underserved youth. The program is offered at 20 locations and reaches more than 800 children annually. 

Ray Benton, CEO of JTCC says, “We’re delighted that Sandy Spring Bank is partnering with us to make a difference in the community. Their commitment to Prince George’s County makes them an ideal partner to extend the effectiveness of community outreach.” 

Benton is well known for being the first national director of the National Junior Tennis League, the premier organization that introduces inner-city kids to tennis. Benton led the National Junior Tennis League from four cities to 50. Under his leadership, JTCC has helped their graduates earn over $20 million in scholarships. The organization has also been recognized with several prestigious awards from the United States Tennis Association.

“I have seen all types of kids gain a love for this game,” says Benton. “Once they get a racket in their hands, you see a spark in their eyes. They get that ball over the net and see they can do this and flourish!”

In addition to teaching the game of tennis, Sandy Spring Bank’s program will help area youth achieve the academic and personal development skills that attract college recruiters. For many, it’s the first step on the pathway to earning a college scholarship.

Explaining how the program works, JTCC Community Outreach Director, Annessa Taylor says, “JTCC coaches travel to transforming neighborhood initiative schools and community centers to teach kids ages 5-11 the basic fundamentals of tennis for eight weeks during the fall and spring and six weeks in the summer. Each site receives instruction once a week, for two hours, with a group of 20 – 60 students per site. At the end of each session we identify those who are highly motivated and invite them to our phase two program on scholarship. Phase two is an eight-week program with a smaller group that receives more personal skill development for an hour and a half, one day a week at JTCC. The players attend a graduation where they receive a new tennis racquet, certificate of achievement and another scholarship to join our eight/nine-week session.”
    
“The players have an opportunity to play with high-performance tournament competitors who also serve as mentors,” explains Taylor. “So, they see what they have the potential to accomplish.” 

“The mentors get as much value and experience as the kids,” says Taylor. “We teach problem solving and provide opportunities to give back by volunteering with JTCC projects like the Sandy Spring Bank Advantage Prince George’s program, ThanksUSA and Special Olympics.”

Taylor says she has seen many success stories come out of the program. “One example is a student who flourished as soon as she started the program at age seven. Now, she’s eleven, playing in tournaments and working towards a college scholarship.” 

Taylor continues, “We’re so grateful to Sandy Spring Bank for their support in helping us grow the game and make a real difference in Prince George’s County. It gives these kids the opportunity of a lifetime – to do something outside their comfort zone. It can open the door to not only becoming a potential tennis pro but to building important life skills. We bring everything to them – they don’t need to do anything except show up. That’s the beauty of it!”

To learn more about JTCC, their programs and volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.jtcc.org. Also, make sure to follow Sandy Spring Bank on social media to get updates on the Sandy Spring Bank Advantage Prince George’s program and all things community.