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March 20, 2020

A Message from our Executive Director

Dear Friends,

After several busy days of reacting and responding to government guidance, I wanted to write to share more about what’s been happening at ICT.  Like you, we have been adapting to these uncertain times to the best of our ability. Over the past week, several staff members have stepped up and worked well beyond their normal hours to prepare and communicate our plans to all of you. We have relied on one another as well as our volunteer Board members, community partners, and local vendors to make difficult decisions and coordinate and reschedule a variety of activities and events. I want to pause and express my gratitude to all of these dedicated and caring individuals for their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of our players, participants and greater community.

One of the greatest joys of my job is seeing the amazing impact our work has on the kids we serve. Helping kids develop their potential, believe in themselves, and feel supported and cared for is what inspires me every single day. Today, I am excited to share with you the first installment of our InnerCity Tennis Impact Series. I hope you will enjoy an inside look at the tangible and meaningful difference our work is having on the kids we serve as told by our coaches themselves. 

Thank you for being part of the InnerCity Tennis community. We couldn’t do this great work without our dedicated tennis players, our generous donors and our committed volunteers. We appreciate each of you and wish you and your families all the best.


John Wheaton
Executive Director


By Laura Myers, Education Programs Manager
Reading is Power for Northside Students. Starting in January, the ICT Outreach team launched its new Reading is Power challenge for students in the Northside Legacy After School Program. Since then, all 19 participants from Bryn Mawr Elementary and Prodeo Academy have been “reading machines” at the after school program and at home. In January and February the students read a combined total of 11,740 minutes outside of school!
Laura Myers, Education Programs Manager and licensed MN teacher, developed the Reading is Power program for the Northside Legacy program with the help of ICT Outreach coaches Mason Bultje, Dan Wheaton, and Nick Dunivant. Minnesota has one of the largest education gaps in the country,1 and the Reading is Power program is designed to:
  • motivate students to read
  • instill the importance of reading skills
  • build confidence in their abilities
  • help them enjoy the process
The curriculum includes mini literacy lessons focusing on phonics, grammar, sight words, sentence structure, and storytelling. A highlight of the program is the student reading challenge, in which students had seven weeks to read as much as they could during the program and at home. As an incentive, the participants received a small prize for every 100 minutes of reading and were offered a grand prize for reaching 1,000 minutes. 

When the program began, coaches observed students coming in and choosing a book to read right away. Now the students have developed a routine of reading and writing during their off-court time. Each time students reach another 100-minute milestone, they smile ear to ear, tell all of the coaches, and can't wait to tell their parents at pick up time.

InnerCity Tennis provides books to match the kids’ reading levels, with five bins, grouped according to grade level, 1st through 5th.  While coaches offer guidance, the students ultimately get to decide what they read. ICT’s library currently includes about 100 books with the goal of featuring engaging, culturally relevant texts that students can connect with in a meaningful way. ICT’s Outreach coaches have observed that the students gain power in the form of confidence and knowledge through this new curriculum: Reading is Power.
1, p.9

Family Reading Challenge Update
Due to the Coronavirus and Minnesota school closures, kids are now at home learning online or with their families. Many parents may be asking themselves, how am I going to keep my children occupied for two weeks? How can I keep my children engaged in learning? ICT’s Outreach Team is giving families in the Northside Legacy After School Program the opportunity to come together by launching a Family Reading Challenge while students are on break. From March 17 to April 3, the Northside students in this program are challenged to read together with their family members, track their reading minutes, and share pictures of themselves completing the challenge. As an incentive, families who reach 500 minutes will earn a gift card to Target! Even in these uncertain times, ICT is committed to developing young readers and encouraging families to read together in the process!

Looking for free online learning resources? Scholastic is offering free online courses for Pre-K through grade 6+ during school closures.

If you would like to support our Reading is Power program and help build our library of engaging reading material, we welcome any contribution you wish to make.

If you would like to make a gift of your time as a reading and writing volunteer in our Northside Legacy After School Program, please email Laura Myers for more information.

InnerCity Tennis is proud to be a 4-star chapter of the USTA Foundation’s NJTL network, which includes more than 250 nonprofit youth development organizations that offer free or low-cost tennis and education programming each year.

Copyright © 2020 InnerCity Tennis, All rights reserved.

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