Charlotte Fisken '14; Becky Cheng CMC '18; Ruby Kim '17, Draper Center TA; and Athena Beck

When Pomona College offered to teach free after-school tennis classes at two local elementary schools (Central Language Academy and Mission Elementary in the Ontario-Montclair School District), more than 150 kids signed-up. With a maximum class size of 25 children, spots in each of the four-week sessions had to be offered by lottery.

Charlotte Fisken '17 with Central Language Academy student
Athena Beck '18 with CLA student

Mona Chacon, parent of a kindergartner at Central Language Academy, says her son is all excited. "It's the first sport he's going to learn, and he was so excited to get a post. He loves being outdoors and active. The teachers have their attention at all times, and the kids are catching on really quick."

"I love it," says Robert, a second-grader. "It's fun and you get to hit the ball!" For Annalucia, who is in third grade, the draw is that, "the teachers are really fun."

On a recent afternoon at the Central Language Academy, it was Charlotte Fisken's turn to lead the lessons. A Pomona College senior, she led the high-energy students through warm-up exercises and drills, with help from her fellow teachers Athena Beck '17 and Becky Cheng CMC '17. As the kids practiced, all three teachers moved through the group working with students one-on-one.

"Seeing their excitement is infectious," says Charlotte. "Sport is where I learned most of my formative lessons, especially in leadership, confidence, teamwork, discipline and so many things that apply in the classroom, with friendships and life. I had a lot of opportunities to participate in sports, and it's really important to me that other kids do, too."

The tennis coaches are enrolled in "Tennis ‘FUN'damentals, a Pomona College physical education class, taught by Professor and Men's Tennis Coach Steve Bickham.

The first eight weeks of the college course are spent learning the basics of tennis and how to explain and teach those basics to children in an entertaining and exciting manner. After the training, the students divide into two teaching teams, to teach two four-week sessions at each elementary school.

"I love getting tennis rackets in the hands of kids, especially kids who have never had access. The sport teaches really great life skills," says Bickham, who has more than 25 years experience in tennis – as a player, coach, and in the non-profit sector. "Tennis has always been seen as a country club sport and we're trying to change that."

Fisken who will join Teach for America following graduation and teach Middle School in Boston for two years, highly recommends the class to other students. "One of the reasons I have so much fun doing it, is that it's such a departure from life at school. You have to let go of anything bad that happens during the week and just be with the kids reveling in their joy of learning something brand new. It's a wonderful break from my thesis!"

Tennis FUNdamentals is one of 10 community engagement courses offered this spring through Pomona College Draper Center for Community Partnerships. Equipment for the class was donated in part by the U.S. Tennis Association.