Grassroots Champion of the Year: Danice Brown
Portland After School Tennis & Education is more than a non-profit youth program. PAST&E is a year-round, tuition-free program for at-risk and low-income students in grades K through 12 that, in the words of its executive director, Danice Brown, strives to be “life changing.”
Brown joined PAST&E in 2007, before the “education” component was in full swing. At the time, she was alarmed to discover that only 54 percent of Portland, Ore., public school students earn a diploma in four years. As the new executive director, she went to the board and had education added to the program’s list of can-do’s. “Our goal is to create ‘student-athletes’ who will develop a passion for being healthy, playing tennis, and excelling at school,” she says.
Now, 60 percent of a PAST&E youngster’s time focuses on education, and Brown sets high standards for both kids and parents. “Danice is the heart and soul of the program,” says Development Director Maureen “Moe” Dugan. “Her structure and expectations make the program a success.” And her dedication to improving lives has led her to be named RSI’s Grassroots Champion of the Year.
Prior to accepting the position at PAST&E, Brown was the general manager for West Hills Racquet & Fitness Club. “Tennis demands things (of you), like etiquette,” she says, “The biggest hook for me is that tennis is nonviolent. You aren’t roughing someone up to win a point.”
Every year, PAST&E touches the lives of about 1,000 youngsters and their families, and it currently serves 62 year-round participants. “We believe our program will be the catalyst for students staying in school until they graduate from high school,” Brown says.
Tips for Success
- Get parents involved. Offer discounted lessons to increase interest and advocacy. Require monthly meetings to keep everyone informed. “Family involvement is a key to the program’s success,” says Ruth Turner, director of Community Tennis for USTA Pacific Northwest.
- Empower the community. Strengthen alliances through off-court opportunities. Brown rents land so the parents of players can grow food to feed 62 families all summer long.
- Cultivate partnerships within the community and USTA section.
See all articles by Robin Bateman
About the Author
Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga., where she coordinates tennis program and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events.