East Falls: Arthur Ashe Tennis Center Gives Inner-City Students a Second Chance

A Second Serve student practices tennis drills.


For much of his life, 15-year-old Timothy Brooks was stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It wasn’t until he joined the Second Serve Program at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center in East Falls, that he finally found a place he belonged.

Timothy Brooks, 15, has been a member of the Arthur Ashe community for two years.

Two years ago, Brooks was living in Delaware with his mother while his father served jail time.

After shooting BB guns in the woods with friends, Brooks mistakenly left the gun in his backpack and brought it to school the next day. He was expelled due to a strict no-tolerance policy on weapons and moved to South Philadelphia with his mother.

Brooks was placed at Delaware Valley High School and began attending the new Second Serve Program at the center.

“It was something else to do besides basketball and football, and it was pretty fun,” Brooks said, admitting that at first, he wasn’t sure if he’d like the sport. “It was just me and nobody else playing on my side.”

Kenny Holdsman, president of center, said he noticed Brooks’ drive to play tennis and immerse himself in the community.

A Second Serve student practices tennis drills.

After the Second Serve Program ended at 2:45 p.m. each day, Brooks stayed to train with a private coach. At 4 p.m., he joined in the center’s group skills clinic. And after a 6:30 p.m. meal with coaches and friends in the High School Leadership Program, Brooks participated in community volunteer projects.

By eagerly proving his desire to stay involved in the program, Brooks was able to transfer into an academically rigorous curriculum at Mastery Charter School in Germantown.

He was even inspired to help other young people in violent situations and gave a heartfelt testimonial during last year’s hearings on the racial incidents at South Philadelphia High School.

Second Serve coach Jonah Fliegelman encourages his students to try their best on and off the court.

“I have no doubt that Timothy Brooks will graduate high school. He will go to college. He will become a productive, responsible citizen – hopefully a really good father and parent,” Holdsman said. “And his trajectory, I think, is going to be really promising – in some small part because of the role we’ve had in his life.”

After college, Brooks said he sees himself either playing tennis or starting his own business.

“Tennis helped me,” Brooks said. “If you feel like you want to do something, you’re better off just doing it and not listening to what people say. It’s your life.”

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