AHS First Serve program connects youth of refugee families by using tennis


ABILENE, Texas - It's Thursday evening and after varsity tennis practice, a few students keep the racquet in hand welcoming in a new group to the court - kids. These youth are some of the newest members of the Abilene community, coming from refugee families with the sport of tennis, used to unite them together.

And with every swing of the racquet, Abilene to them, starts really feeling like home.

"We're new together," shouted one of the young participants. We used to all go to the same school but now we don't, so we get together here."

Many refugee families from disaster-stricken countries are calling the Key City home, and its programs like First Serve at Abilene High, that help make it feel that way. Students giving their time, to serve as instructors, friends, and mentors to those new to not only Abilene, but to the country.

Clark Sullivan is this year's leader of First Serve, and says after hearing about the program from a friend, knew he needed to get involved.

"I just took a leap of faith and came last year," Sullivan said. "My friend was the leader last year as a senior and so I knew I could made that commitment each week and so I took over."

And like its name, First serve is serving up tennis, as a way to give back.

"Just to come and be together and have fun," Sullivan said. "Even sometimes I'll hear them speaking different languages to each other and that's just really fun too because I know they probably don't have that at their schools."

And there are teaching moments -- for both young and old each time the group meets.

"I learn being nice, kind," said Bright, a young participant in First Serve. "And I practice every day at home," he said about his new love for tennis.

Meanwhile for Sullivan, it's more about what he learns from the kids.

"I'm definitely learning a lot of just being a good influence on other people," he said.

After having been started in 2013, First Serve looks to continue to grow, showing a little good, goes a long way.

"We're busy people in America, but it's really not a big deal to cut just one hour out of your entire week and it's a blessing to you as well as to these kids," Sullivan said.