First Serve Bridgeport providing students with lessons in athletics and academics
First Serve in Bridgeport is preparing young students for their futures through lessons in athletics and academics.
"The second I stepped foot on that court, my life changed," says 12-year-old Lohanna Costa, of Bridgeport.
The program focuses specifically on tennis skills and academic improvement.
"Not only do we play tennis, but we also have academics,” says Lohanna. “So, if I need help with any homework, there's always somebody there to help me."
After having gone through the program, First Serve coach and mentor Nick Peschier, 20, now volunteers for First Serve. He describes it as a safe space for Bridgeport kids.
"Every kid should feel safe, you know, in their hometown,” says Peschier. “I really feel like First Serve creates this environment where you can be safe, you can use this energy for good.”
"Adult-mentors and kids in college, like Nick, can mentor kids on a one-on-one basis…we find that's very effective," says cofounder David Reiss.
Reiss, of Easton, cofounded the nonprofit in 2016. He says giving year-round academic support and mentoring provides crucial life lessons.
"Keeping score and having all of that sportsmanship. At the same time, you're trying to win the match and there's a lot of perseverance involved and problem solving,” says Reiss. “So, a lot of the kids in First Serve are getting a great education on the court and they just don't know it."
Marghareth Costa, Lohanna’s mother, says the players are very competitive, but the program helps the students grow.
Students try out in elementary school and once accepted they are followed through high school and college. Costa says the program helped her daughter get into Greens Farms Academy, Adidas Tennis Camp and Rafa Nadal Academy.
"I'm so grateful for the program and for First Serve,” says Costa. “Without First Serve, we wouldn't be able to experience this."
"The kids have to show up and show that they're passionate about their future and for those kids the program works out very well," says Reiss.
He says the program has filled the varsity tennis team at Bridgeport Central High School and he hopes to work with other schools in the city. He also says it gives kids a fair shot at achieving their full potential -- and they agree.
"It really opened many doors for me," says Lohanna.
Reiss says the First Serve program gives students a path to success.