Celebrating 25 years: After-school tennis program now a nonprofit with lasting legacy

It began as a tennis program for low-income neighborhoods. It’s now a youth center with multiple programs and services.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville nonprofit inspiring young kids and teens are marking a major milestone this year. The MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation is celebrating 25 years in the River City.

“Our vision is really that the young people who grow up in our programs are given the resources and the mentors they need to rise to their full potential,” said Terri Florio, Executive Director.

The Foundation was started 25 years ago by pro tennis player MaliVai Washington. It began as a tennis program for low-income, at-risk kids. Over the years, it has grown into an after-school and summer youth development program.

“It is absolutely critical to provide young people access to these opportunities because it helps them develop and become well-rounded young adults,” said Florio. “It gives them opportunities that youth in other neighborhoods are often afforded but youth over in this neighborhood may not necessarily be afforded.”

Florio said a majority of the kids they serve live in an area of high crime, poverty, and a higher rate of high school dropouts.

The foundation built a youth center several years ago that serves elementary school-age kids. Last year, it opened a new teen center in the middle of the pandemic. It offers study rooms and a variety of different programs like music and cooking club.

“It allows us to do so much more and it allows us to serve to many more kids,” explained Florio.

If you want to learn more or get involved, visit the foundation’s website.

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