RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — In southeast Raleigh, the squeak of sneakers changing direction can be heard on these tennis courts. The group of teenagers playing are part of the Ebony Racquet Club. Ava Walker, 15, remembers the first time she saw Serena Williams on TV.
“She’s definitely a trailblazer. My parents put her on TV for the first time. I was like that’s why I wanted to play tennis. I can’t say I can’t be black woman and a national or world star because of her,” she said. “It’s not about how fast you can hit the ball or how hard it goes over the net.”
The Ebony Racquet Club has been serving hope for children in southeast Raleigh since the 1970s. While fundraising events and volunteers help this organization stay afloat, many alumni have continued to earn scholarships to colleges and universities such as Nija Price, a senior at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
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“Tennis taught me a lot. It taught me a lot of social skills. It taught me life skills. It got me through school and college,” Price said.
His grandparents were among the first members of the Ebony Racquet Club. They introduced their daughters to the game early.
“Everyone jokes that my sister and I were so different from everyone else. We were strong, tall and muscular,” said Ebony Racquet Club coach Kesha Price. “Everyone makes the joke that we were Serena and Venus (Williams) before Serena and Venus.”
Serena Williams’ impact wasn’t just felt by the girls. Michael Boykin, 13, is also inspired.
“I love how his forehand always comes in. It’s so perfect. I try to hit his forehand. It doesn’t work,” he said.
All eyes are on Serena Williams as she hangs up her racquet for the last time. His retirement makes way for the next generation of leaders.
“If I make it up there…hi! Until then, I’m just a local racquet player,” Walker said.
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