Local girl wins Arthur Ashe essay contest

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USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), honored the 10 winners of the 17th annual National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) Arthur Ashe Essay Contest on Sunday, Aug. 30, at the Yale Club in New York City. The winners, ranging in ages from 9 to 18, were selected out of more than 3,000 entries submitted this summer. Kelly Mejia Solares, 9, of Delray Beach, was one of the 10 winners. Solares is a part of the Tennis PALs program. She loves school, especially mathematics and reading. Outside of tennis, she enjoys going to the park and learning new things. This year’s essay contest focused on highlighting NJTL co-founder Charlie Pasarell. Arthur Ashe, along with Pasarell and their friend Sheridan Snyder, cofounded NJTL in 1969. The goal was to develop a program that would have a positive impact on under-resourced children by introducing them to tennis, keeping them off the streets and encouraging them to stay in school. Part of Pasarell’s focus throughout his tennis career was finding ways to utilize the game to give back to the community. To enter the contest, students were asked to write an essay of 350 words or less, responding to a specific question about Pasarell. This year’s question asked: “Who is a local NJTL hero in your community that resembles what Mr. Pasarell did through NJTL?” Each winner received round-trip airfare to New York City for the winner and a parent plus a two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt 42nd Street and VIP status in the President’s Box during the 2015 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day was held Saturday, Aug. 29, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The weekend wrapped up with an awards luncheon on Aug. 30, hosted by USTA Foundation Chairman and former world No. 4 James Blake and former New York City Mayor and USTA board member David Dinkins. The luncheon was held at the Yale Club, where the essay contest winners received an honorary plaque.