Second-grader Alvaro Guizar hit a foam tennis ball over the net in the gymnasium. “Nice backswing. I like that swing!” yelled West Kelloggsville Elementary Principal Eric Schilthuis.
Meanwhile, second-grader Nathan Gallgos practiced volleying the ball. “I’m good at this game!” he said.
Students in an after-school program called TEAM 21 are being introduced to tennis, thanks to Schilthuis’ effort in getting a grant from the U.S. Tennis Association. Schilthuis, a former college tennis player and high school coach, wanted to bring tennis to his students, sharing his love for the game.
“Tennis is a great lifelong sport, and I wanted to introduce it to the community and our students. It’s something they might not have been exposed to.”
USTA provided training to staff over the summer including a visit from professional tennis player Chris Wilton. The association awarded Kelloggsville a diversity grant, including two nets, 30 racquets and 36 foam balls, designed for tennis for ages 10 and younger. Students also received a USTA membership, allowing them to participate in events or activities for free.
Sharing Their Passions
Schilthuis is one of three Kelloggsville staff members making sure children in the low-income district are introduced to opportunities not always available to them. Throughout the school year, elementary students now have the chance to play tennis and golf and participate in archery. For the staff members, it’s about sharing their passions.
East Kelloggsville Principal Jeff Owen, a recreational golfer, has gotten 20 students involved in First Tee of West Michigan for the past two years. At Maple Hills Golf Course, in Wyoming, they participate in six golf lessons designed to teach how to swing a golf club along with life values that golf can teach, including respect, discipline, honesty and trustworthiness.
West Kelloggsville reading interventionist Suzanne Schmier, a longbow archery enthusiast with the Michigan Longbow Association, has brought Longbow Day to school for the past three years, during which MLA members come from as far away as Jackson to work with 250 students and spread their love of shooting a longbow.
Students learn what longbows are made of, about hand-eye coordination and eye dominance, help crest an arrow and, best of all, shoot a longbow at balloons with one-on-one help from an experienced archer.
“The kids absolutely love it,” Schmier said.