Cora Masters Barry leads the 10 year celebration of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.
By Adoria Doucette
As one of the premier youth-oriented cultural institutions in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center is a national example of the extraordinary leadership our city plays in shaping the future of America and the world. As the national debate rages on about how to best prepare younger generations for competitive global commerce, for ten years this establishment has engaged thousands of DC youth into an intensive reading and math curriculum designed specifically for each students needs. These after school and summer programs are at the heart of the centers mission, with the goal for each student to leap forward within each subject that they study through the academic program of this now hallowed institution.
With learning at the heart of the centers mission, the academic programs are complemented by a world class technology lab that administers two programs for middle and high school students “Technology Xplorers” and “Computer Connections”. Technology Xplorers educates the students on the latest software offerings from around the ever evolving and expanding world of technology, spanning the entire lexicon of the software universe from application software to programming languages and user-written software. Computer Connections instructs students on the most efficient and valuable technology resources that enable data gathering and research, empowering students to utilize technology for education, not just casual communication and social networking.
The “What’s in a Book?” program is the largest student book club in the city, taking the concept to a new level by exploring topics covered in the books through drama and art after the students put down the books that they explore in the program. The “Junior Bennett Belles” is a dance team of girls from 10-15 that have been featured all around the city for special events, moving Oprah Winfrey to tears after their performance for her at the National Council of Negro Women’s 2009 Uncommon Height Awards Dinner. Dr. Dorothy Height herself was an very influential supporter of the STLC, and students are always exposed to strong national leaders who visit the center like Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Maya Angelou, College President Dr. Julianne Malveaux, former Essence Editor Susan Taylor, and Gospel Singer Yolanda Adams.
For students that maintain at least a C average in school and actively participate in the learning programs with a great attitude and goals to accomplish academic excellence, Tennis instruction and coaching is available that makes the center a gem of the regional tennis landscape, as the most famous tennis players in the world relish the interweaving of tennis and learning and have gone to great extremes to support the tennis programs. Venus and Serena Williams, Pam Shriver, Zina Garrison, and James Blake are just a handful of the tennis greats that support the center, as hundreds of students from the tennis program have gone on to win college tennis scholarships and the American Tennis Association National Tournament has had numerous national champions that call the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center home.
In the late 1990’s the current location of the center was a decrepit lot; the phone rang at the White House and then First Lady of the United States Hillary Clinton took a call from the First Lady of the District of Columbia Cora Masters Barry. Soon $5 million was raised and a line of business luminaries, tennis legends and cultural icons did all that they were asked by Ms. Barry to ensure that her vision of a world class educational and recreational facility became a reality. Ms. Barry selected Olympic silver medalist and Washingtonian Jair Lynch to utilize his then new development company to handle the real estate development of the property. The center now boasts four indoor and six lighted outdoor tennis courts, a pro shop, fitness center, locker rooms and educational facilities. Most importantly, the heart and souls of thousands of youth have been enriched by the center, and it occupies an enviable position within the tennis world.
On April 28th at the second annual Tennis Ball II gala celebrating the centers 10 year anniversary, Ms. Barry was moved to tears upon reflecting on the long journey that the center and its founding patrons embarked on that has led a once fledgling enterprise to become an institution of unmatched merit.
As the sun set along the highlands of the southeast portion of our capital city that founding father George Washington described as enormously beautiful, a crowd of the most influential and charitable Washingtonians gathered to honor the success of the center and the unmatched magnitude of Cora Masters Barry’s greatest philanthropic endeavor.
The black tie affair was festive and fun, with everyone donning their finest attire complemented with the mandatory wearing of tennis shoes, this made the dancing all the more enjoyable. The spirit of the thousands of young scholars who have gone on to great heights permeated the room. Power Source would like to pay tribute to the former First Lady of Washington Cora Masters Barry, her establishment of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center will strengthen thousands more over the next decade, and leave a permanent highlight on the neighborhood that our nations first President loved that now bears his name. Washington Highlands will continue to evolve as a beloved example of the best of our nation’s capital.