In August I began my VISTA position at the Border Youth Tennis Exchange. What started off as a brief internship through my graduate School program quickly turned into a beautiful opportunity to meet new people and feel inspired by my work.

I was drawn in by the international aspect of the program description. I grew up in a bilingual household, and my parents are from Durango, Mexico. So, BYTE as a perfect chance to mix my professional experience with my personal life as well as my love for tennis. The VISTA position was focused on grant writing, and other more administrative tasks. Though I had worked in the nonprofit sector before, and completed nearly three years of Peace Corps service, this was a great opportunity to gain more experience close to home.

I didn’t have to think twice about staying onboard after my initial internship with BYTE ended. The Tennis for America VISTA position was a logical next step. This time, I had the opportunity to work directly with the kids in the virtual classes. At first, I was nervous because this new Zoom reality was a big adjustment for me and continues to be so on certain occasions. But the thoughts and participation of the kids has become my favorite part about working for BYTE.

Little by little I have become part of the BYTE team, the BYTE family. I was geographically far from everyone because of COVID, but the established routine and kindness on behalf of my coworkers and BYTE students helped me feel included in a matter of a few weeks. Though my experience has mostly been virtual, I have also gotten the chance to go to Nogales and visit BYTE staff, students, and shelter locations in the border region. During this time, I had a blast practicing tennis with the team, as well as introducing pickleball to the BYTE mix.

A regular week for me in BYTE consists of assisting the executive director on fundraising tasks, research for our trauma informed coaching initiative, and grant writing. Along with this, I teach in a couple of courses and lead online tutoring directly with BYTE student athletes. In the film course of Cinenautas, we get into heated discussions over who is the best Spiderman or Batman, which I have learned can be a controversial topic depending on who you ask. And in the teen groups, I learn something new from them every time I log into the session, and they create stories together worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

Tennis for America experience has not gone in a straight line. There have been loops and twists and turns, and I am so grateful to be able to work in a space that inspires me constantly. Whether it’s silly jokes or deep questions, I hope to continue learning from BYTE students and I am thankful for all that I have learned and continue to grow through this experience.

If you would like more information about the Tennis For America Year of Service program please visit www.tennisforamerica.com or contact ITA, COO, David Mullins (dmullins@itatennis.com)

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