Each year, USTA Southern California awards grants to deserving organizations that assist in the development of tennis programming, often within underserved communities and in places where access is limited. This year, Boyle Heights’ Proyecto Pastoral continues providing tennis to the Hispanic community through USTA grant funding, allowing youngsters the ability to enjoy the sport at home in their own community.
The organization was founded in 1986 to promote youth development, early childhood education, and shelter for the homeless. Now 34 years later, Proyecto’s IMPACTO youth program in Boyle Heights reaches 500 lower-income Hispanic youth between the ages of 5 and 18.
“IMPACTO’s sports are a major aspect of fulfilling our overall goals,” according to Program Director Abe Flores. “Not only do sports offer an outlet for physical fitness, but they provide an opportunity for youth to learn sportsmanship, teamwork, communication, and perseverance, giving them an opportunity to build skills that promote positive outcomes in all areas of their lives.”
The USTA-funded tennis programming will be a catalyst for the reopening of Aliso-Pico Recreation Center, where IMPACTO houses many of its athletic activities. Shuttered for much of the year, the Rec Center will promote fun, outdoor activity like tennis, football, soccer, and gymnastics in the wake of the lengthy Stay-at-Home period.
“Last year, a grant from the (USTA) enabled us to bring tennis to the community, and the youth absolutely loved it," says Flores. “Parents and youth have continually elevated the need for their children to get outside and play, and to engage in physical activity. The Stay-At-Home order has been particularly stressful for families often living in cramped living quarters with multiple family members, and youth are experiencing Zoom fatigue. Tennis will provide a safe way for youth to be able to get out and play outside.”
Proyecto Pastoral will use the USTA SoCal Community Tennis Program Grant to allowing staffing of the tennis program during the new school year and through next summer. The program will run sessions over seven weeks each quarter, twice weekly for forty youth in two age groups.