While many Queens County residents ran for shelter from the rain on May 24, more than 650 students from the Far Rockaway School District were running after tennis balls at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. This year marked the 15th Annual “Say Yes to Tennis, No to Violence” Day, hosted by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, along with the USTA and NYJTL.
The students who are enrolled in the District Attorney’s STAR Track (Straight Talk About Risks) were all present to participate in this fun, anti-violence program. Students from seven schools from the Far Rockaway district participated, including Middle School 53 and Public Schools 43, 104, 106, 197, 215 and 333 which enroll more than 4,200 students in grades four through 12.
“I want to first congratulate all of the students who have participated in our STAR Track program this year and the thousands of others who have been with us in the prior 14 years," said District Attorney Brown. "My fervent hope is that they have benefitted from the experience and that the life lessons they have learned–such as fair play and self-control–will have a positive effect on their daily lives.”
After arriving at the National Tennis Center, the students received t-shirts donated by Modell’s and goodie bags containing items donated by the New York City Police Department, New York Mets, SUNY Recruitment Center, CUNY LaGuardia Community College, School Theater Ticket Program, Queens Borough Public Library and the Queens Botanical Garden. Then, the kids headed to the courts to practice their volleys, overheads and ground strokes with local tennis coaches who volunteer for the program.
“[The Program] exposes kids to tennis, which normally they wouldn’t get to see, and the Billie Jean King Tennis Center where they wouldn’t get to be. They look forward to it every year, and it is very well organized,” said I.A. Principal Gary Fairweather of PS 43.
Among the day’s invited guests was NYPD Detective Lieutenant Steven D. McDonald, who was shot and paralyzed by a 15-year-old gunman more than 20 years ago.
“Today’s tennis event is meant to encourage our young people to make affirmative choices–such as sports–as a positive alternative to the deadly culture of gun violence which permeates their lives on an almost daily basis," said DA Brown. "Our challenge and goal is to teach them that tennis, aside from being a fun activity, is an enriching, self-improving activity that can be applied to all aspects of life and can give them the confidence to succeed.”