“SPUT kid” Wins National Essay Contest and Trip to New York
What does it take to get an all expenses paid trip to New York City and the biggest tennis tournament in the world? About 340 well-crafted words and some inspiration from local coaches.
Meria Pha is at the US Open, the largest of the Grand Slam tournaments, this week. She won the national essay contest hosted by the USTA Foundation. During the summer, Meria takes lessons with Saint Paul Urban Tennis at Harding High School on the Eastside of Saint Paul. As part of her lessons, she was encouraged to write an essay reflecting on Saint Paul Urban Tennis. Each year, USTA Foundation hosts a national essay contest to inspire young people across the country to reflect and write on how tennis can make the world a better place. This year, they asked, “What do you hope to see from your local NJTL chapter in the next 50 years?” A fitting question, since National Junior Tennis and Learning turned 50 this year.
What is National Junior Tennis and Learning?
In 1969, tennis champion and civil rights champion, Arthur Ashe founded the NJTL program to help promote tennis in under resourced communities and to help young players develop strong foundations for their futures (whether tennis was in them or not). Saint Paul Urban Tennis is an NJTL with a mission of: Strengthening our Community by Educating and Empowering Youth to Realize their Full Potential.
Arthur Ashe is notable for many reasons. He was a fierce civil rights activist and thoughtful writer. That would have been a life worth remembering in and of itself. However, Ashe was also the first African-American male to win a grand slam (he would win 3 during his illustrious career). It seems fitting then, that on the 50th anniversary of his proudest accomplishment (creating the NJTL program) that USTA foundation would have the opportunity to recognize another outstanding accomplishment by a person who is a “first”. See, Meria is the first Hmong-American to win the national essay contest. And now, she is representing an entire community of people who have been given added ammunition for their dreams through her example.
Broadway, Memorials, Tennis, and… K-Pop
Meria and her older brother are in New York this week. Their itinerary includes: the US Open’s kids day, visiting the 9/11 Memorial, taking in a broadway play, and something special for Meria. When asked if there were any souvenirs she would like to bring back, she said, “I’d really like to get some BTS gear to show off at school.” (BTS is a Korean Pop boy band that is popular around the globe).
Congratulations, Meria! Saint Paul Urban Tennis is proud of you!
Join us in congratulating Meria by leaving her a note in the comments. Enjoy this story? This is one of many that Saint Paul Urban Tennis is making possible in our community. Support our efforts to Launch Leaders by participating or donating.
You can read her essay here!