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Tennis Camp and Seton Hall Students Merge Athleticism with Education

Seton Hall education students paired up with the Greater Newark Tennis Education program for their summer tennis camp

With summer underway, the Greater Newark Tennis and Education (GNTE) and Seton Hall University welcomed young tennis players for another year with the summer tennis program. Players participate in this free program where kids can play and learn through a robust educational program in tandem with engaging tennis instruction.

Students from the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University had the opportunity to practice their teaching skills at this year’s tennis camp. Four nights each week, education students make their way to the Althea Gibson Tennis Center at Branch Brook Park in Newark where they head up the education portion of the GNTE’s summer program.

Image of young players and Seton Hall education students Shamika Augustin, Eliana Driesse, Robin Towey and Chelsea Alves on the tennis court.

Seton Hall students, Shamika Augustin, Eliana Driesse, Robin Towey and Chelsea Alves were eager to meet their students this summer

Seton Hall students, Shamika Augustin, Eliana Driesse, Robin Towey and Chelsea Alves serve as academic program instructors. On a recent afternoon, they were eager to meet their students and get to work promoting educational and self-development that will create life-long meaningful connections. Shamika, who’s a veteran instructor for the program, was assigned to work with 7–10 year-olds again this year. “I decided to join as an academic program instructor for GNTE last year to gain more experience managing a class size of students,” said Shamika Augustin. “The program gave me an opportunity to design lesson plans, teach and manage a class of various ages, and most importantly, taught me how to be flexible with the ever-changing landscape of teaching.”

Coach Bob Bynum, and Director of Tennis at GNTE who has over 40 years of coaching experience, recalled that only five youngsters showed up for the first session when the camp started in 2019. The program has seen its registration grow to over 130 participants. On any given evening, 50-55 kids learn of tennis and pick up life skills for two hours Monday through Thursday.

After an hour of tennis instruction, campers settle down for a short lesson in anything from history, to working on resilience and developing emotional intelligence. With the support of Seton Hall students and staff volunteering their time, young campers are encouraged to explore concepts such as emotional intelligence and communication.

“Having this diverse curriculum has inspired me so much as an education student,” said Chelsea Alves I’ve seen how interactive lessons can be and how you can always incorporate elements of emotional intelligence and social responsibility into academics. I’ve also learned to think quickly on my feet and adjust to the environment at hand.” The overall goal of the program is to nurture the physical, social, emotional, and academic health of each of the student participants. GNTE provides tennis and fitness instruction, academic support, life skills training, and in the future, college counseling.

Seton Hall education students and players gather around the instructor at the GNTE program.

Education students gained experience teaching their students in a non-conventional environment with an emphasis on a cognitive-behavioral curriculum

Mentoring Seton Hall’s aspiring educators is Associate Dean of College Engagement and Community Development, Omayra Arocho, Ph.D. She was ecstatic watching her students and guiding them throughout the summer as they gain experience working with young students in the local community. “It’s been a pleasure working alongside such talented and inspiring teachers at Seton Hall,” Arocho said. “I can witness our students become educators of their own and gain such valuable experience in their teaching endeavors.”

Since the program began, it has been game-based and cognitive-behavioral curriculum focused on social emotional learning. Overall, the program was designed to provide students with appropriate coping skills, teaching them to navigate social interactions through an interactive format while also teaching them about people who exemplified similar skills and resilience. “We want to give kids the idea that there is a bigger world beyond what they may know,” said Charles McKenna, Executive Director of GNTE.

This year’s lessons plan includes expanding social skills and cognitive abilities pertaining to communication and emotional intelligence, while providing historical components that focused on the history and accomplishments of legendary tennis players and the importance of teamwork. “It has been a pleasure being the Greater Newark Tennis Education Summer Instructor Supervisor and the Curriculum Coordinator for the CEHS students throughout the summer,” said Jesse C. Merise. “Like any school environment – not two days are the same. Therefore, this experience has improved my ability to adapt to any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.”

Using activities, games/sports, arts & crafts, and engaged discussions, the academic instructors teach children about many topics such as communication, team building, sustainability, important figures in their lives (parents/guardians, teachers, etc.), animals and plants, and many more. Several curriculum activities such as journaling, emotional charades, group tasks, and listening games are geared towards improving and expanding the social skills and cognitive abilities, pertaining to communication and emotional intelligence, for each child.

“My hope for the outcome of this program is for campers to walk away knowing how to better cope, process, and communicate not only their feelings, but to also understand and empathize with those they interact with daily (eg, peers, siblings, elders). ),” said Merise. Seton Hall’s enthusiastic camp instructors serve as positive role models while providing campers with the best camp experience possible and ensure the well-being and safety of each child.

“I start off my lessons by checking in on students and having them share different facts about themselves. They have begun suggesting their own questions to start our lessons,” Shamika Augustin shares. “My students are key contributors to the structure of lessons as much as I am. These lessons create a space for team building and learning new information in a less stringent environment.”

Additionally, this summer’s lessons focused on the lives and legacies of Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, two African American tennis players who broke barriers in professional tennis. Gibson, who in her later years lived nearby in East Orange, was the first African American to win a grand slam title at the French Championships in 1956. In 1957 and 1958, Gibson won Wimbledon and the Nationals, the precursor to the US Open. Overall, Gibson won 11 grand slam tournaments, including five singles titles, five doubles titles and one mixed doubles title. Arthur Ashe was the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.

Retired tennis professional and Director of Tennis for GNTE, Bob Bynum with players during one of the summer sessions.

Bob Bynum, retired tennis player and Director of GNTE, puts his 40 years of experience coaching and playing tennis to teach young community members about resilience on and off the court

Retired tennis professional and Director of Tennis for GNTE, Bob Bynum puts his 40 years of experience coaching and playing tennis to use as a tool for not just athletic improvement, but the overall development of the young people in his charge. “For me, tennis made all the difference. But not just on the court. It instilled a discipline and preparedness in me that had a great impact on my education, my sense of community and even my sense of opportunity in the world at large. ” Now, Bynum uses his tennis expertise to inspire a love for the game and all it can bring to Newark’s young leaders.

“The College of Education and Human Services here at Seton Hall does a great job giving education students hands-on experience in the classroom beginning as early as their sophomore year,” Augustin explains. “Many other schools start placements Junior or Senior year; However, here at Seton Hall University, heading into my senior clinical practices, I have had three placements in a variety of settings including in urban, suburban, and Special Education. As I approach my last year here at Seton Hall, I feel even more prepared to teach my own class in the near future.”

The summer tennis program runs through August 18. If you would like to register for this program, visit

About the Greater Newark Tennis and Education (GNTE)

GNTE provides a foundation for a lifelong love of tennis while creating a social community and fostering better health. For some, it will be a pathway to team participation and competitive sports. For our most dedicated and talented players, we hope GNTE will create opportunities for high school varsity letters and, perhaps, college scholarships. Most importantly, GNTE puts all kids on a path towards greater educational opportunity and inspires them to reach higher and excel.

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