HOLLA! and One Love Tennis in Wilmington partnered to help three local youth attend the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in Flushing, New York.
Taliyah Sharp, an Anson County Early College student, and Ja’Kyri Hixson and Za’Kiyah Hixson, both from Anson Middle School, were chosen for the trip.
As part of The One Love Tennis Program, they were featured on “Backyard Court” No. 17 on opening day of the Open, just before the first match of the tournament between American Jack Sock and Argentena’s Guido Andreozzi. Sock won the match.
“Our activities director, Alex Gaddy, has invested several years of time and effort into this tennis program and we are beginning to reap major dividends,” said Leon Gatewood, CEO of HOLLA! Gatewood accompanied the students on the trip of about 30 total students.
The HOLLA! tennis program is a member of the United States Tennis Association.
“Through this tennis program, our kids are getting exposure to college campuses, professional tennis players, frequent physical activity, travel and opportunities for scholarships,” said Gaddy. “This is a recipe for successful students.”
The team travels each year to The Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina. They also frequent the American Tennis Association Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and other tournaments throughout the year.
“I believe in encouraging my children to take advantage of all of their once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, especially those designed to better themselves,” said Falecha Hixson, the mother of the Anson County students attending the trip.
Gatewood said it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip for him.
“To see local youth interacting with professional players and other youth from all over the world, while taking selfies with people like Madison Keyes, was motivation enough for me to stay focused and keep working to find funding to support the HOLLA! Center’s programs,” Gatewood added.
Gatewood, who was on Bowman High School’s first tennis team, credits that experience for his insistence that the HOLLA! Center had tennis courts and a tennis program.
“There is a lot of opportunity in tennis and we intend to expose our youth to every bit of it,” he said.
HOLLA! is an acronym for Helping Our Loved ones Learn and Achieve. It is a nonprofit organization located at 229 E. Main St. in Morven. The organization was founded in 2005 to address low achievement. It offers mentoring, tutoring and other resources to motivate youth to succeed. HOLLA! is funded in part by The United Way of the Central Carolinas.
Ja’Kyri Hixson, Za’Kiyah Hixson and Taliyah Sharp take a break from the action at the U.S. Open.
HOLLA! Eagles tennis team member Taliyah Sharp takes a selfie with Madison Keyes at the U.S. Open. Keyes is the 19th-ranked player in the world, as of Monday, and third-highest ranked American behind Sloane Stephens at No. 8 and Serena Williams at No. 17. Keyes reached the semifinals, where she fell to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.