Stamford, CT – Imagine teaching the concepts of love, service and respect to a room of teenagers through the fundamentals of tennis. Thanks to Tanisha Akinloye, founder and CEO of the renown area non-profit Empowering Through Beauty Foundation, this unique concept is being taught right now at Stamford High School through the launch of the Identity Program on October 2, 2018 through the school’s club, The Light Club.
“The Identity Program is a girl-led, action based, mentoring program to raise awareness among participants that they are enough and a masterpiece with a purpose,” says Akinloye. “Our program uses the fundamentals of tennis to teach students how to identify with ideas of love, service and respect. Participants learn all about the powerful qualities of the game of tennis in the classroom such as perseverance, fairness and sportsmanship, which in turn impacts their school, family and friendships.”
Akinloye, who hails from a family of tennis stars and professional players, uses the tennis ball and rules of the game to empower students to take action and transform the environment of their school. Each student is given a donated tennis ball to create their own “identity ball”. This ball serves as a powerful reminder that the game of tennis exists off the court as well.
The Identity Program started at the behest of teacher Shari Paci, who co-runs the Light Club at Stamford HS, after seeing Tanisha at one of her speaking engagements.
“The tennis ball idea is an amazing way to take a sport and something tangible and use it in a Godly manner,” says Paci. “It’s something students can feel, touch and hold. A reminder that they can carry daily and in their back packs. Last week in club, the girls were to decorate their tennis balls with words or scriptures and encouraged to give them away to someone they didn’t know at school.”
Paci is thrilled that Akinloye is running the program. “Tanisha brings her personal stories, charisma and compassion to the group. She is sincere, focused and motivated to teach. Tanisha is the perfect woman to encourage these young women to see themselves as God does.”
Teaching the fundamentals of the sport and pairing it with day to day, real life applications can result in increased confidence, positive reinforcement between behaviors and relationships, increased self esteem and self worth, a classroom culture of love and respect, interest in the sport of tennis and an awareness of positive role models to look up to such as Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Venus Williams.
“Not everyone can become a professional tennis player but with the help of the Identity Program we teach our girls to play the game in school every day,” says Akinloye. In the process, she notes, girls discover that their true identity is not shaped or informed by unhealthy relationships, rejection, individual experiences, culture, media and society but by their own inner beauty, dignity, and respect for themselves.
While the program is currently only offered at Stamford HS, it is available to any and every school in the area because, as Akinloye points out, there are kids who are bullied, have low self-worth, and struggle with their identity in all schools.
The Identity Program is in need of sponsors and donors to develop the program, train facilitators, and expand to more schools in southwestern Connecticut. Donations will help love and serve a girl in need! Donations may be made at www.etbfoundation.org or sent to PO Box 81, Trumbull, CT 06611