BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, “WBZ Cares” highlights a worthy non-profit organization, and tells the story of what that organization does for the community.
This month WBZ Cares profiles the”Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center,” an organization aimed at leveraging tennis to open doors of opportunity for youth in some of Boston’s most underserved communities building leaders both on and off the tennis court.
Every Friday night at the center on Blue Hill Ave, a group of 60 children gathers on the court for a pep rally and tennis.
It’s called “Volley Against Violence,” and it is aimed at decreasing youth violence and building better relationships between police and young people, according to organizer and Boston Police Officer Frank Williams.
The children in attendance break off into groups according to age and team up with their police officer coaches to have some fun and let off some steam — then it’s time to play some tennis.
Williams says “Volley Against Violence” is a way to get kids off the streets, while at the same time, building trust between police and young people.
“We label this the safest place a young person can be on a Friday night,” he said.
According to STEC’s website, the Friday night program is a partnership with the Boston Police and the Boston Police Community Tennis Association. Since its inception in 2009, the program grew from 8 to 140 participating weekly.
They learn to work as a team, set and achieve goals, to respect one another, to respect police officers and to resolve conflicts as well as learn the importance of making an effort and trying new things.
At the end of the night, children break off into groups again and sit in a circle with a police officer to discuss a meaningful topic. Kids were asked to give some examples of respect they witnessed out on the tennis courts.
“There were two people playing and everybody in line was just like cheering for everyone,” said an attendee.
One boy asked the police officer in his group some tough questions about race.
“Do you believe that white officers are like a little rude to like African boys and men?” he asked.
“It is possible for someone to be very stern and strict, you might perceive that as being rude or disrespectful. This person shouldn’t command presence, understand what I’m saying?”
In the end, both kids and police officers walked away with a better understanding of one another.
For parent Lekisha Limage, that’s a very good thing.
“These types of relationships really help to foster that policemen and women are here to support the community,” Limage said.
Officer Williams says being part of this program is extremely rewarding.
“I have become a surrogate parent, and the beauty of it is they allowed me into their lives,” he said.