By Donna Gilli, Junior Challenge Ladder Vice President
Seven graduating high school seniors are moving up and moving on, as they say goodbye to ALTA and the Junior Challenge Ladder this year. Many are attending such prestigious schools as Duke University, West Point, the Air Force Academy, and Georgia Tech. These seniors will receive special recognition on ALTA Day, July 22, at the BB&T Atlanta Open. We are featuring three of the seven graduates in this issue.
Jessie Young Jessie started playing tennis when she was seven years old. By the time she was 10, she was hooked. Playing on ALTA Junior 10U teams out of Woodmont Golf & CC, and 12U teams at Crooked Creek, Jessie also joined the Junior Challenge Ladder in 2014 and continued playing USTA team and tournament tennis.
Giving credit to her parents as the biggest influence on her tennis playing career, Jessie says her mom played tennis in college and taught tennis to her and her siblings. (Jada and Jake also play on the Junior Challenge Ladder.) Her dad had the option to play tennis, but chose golf instead. “Both of my parents helped me improve my tennis game. Tennis is a great sport, and it can teach you a lot about life. Sometimes, it can be a struggle, but in the end, it’s always worth the work,” says Jessie.
She says her best memory of the JCL is the awards banquet at the end of the season. “We always celebrate in a Mexican or pizza restaurant, and I love seeing all of my friends, along with my opponents.”
Jessie received a scholarship to play at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and will begin her new journey in the fall.
Paul Roberts II For Paul Roberts II, tennis has been a major part of his life for as long as he can remember. Paul’s dad taught him and his brother all about the game. After transporting him around to all his various tennis events, his mother began to play and joined an ALTA team in their neighborhood. “We follow all the professional tournaments on television and enjoy tennis as a family,” says Paul.
Paul has played on ALTA teams at Dekalb Tennis Center and participated on the ALTA Junior Challenge Ladder since he was eight years old. He has worked hard to play year-round on USTA teams and tournaments, along with playing varsity tennis all four years at Lakeside High School. He says the Doug Bowie Tennis Center in Lilburn and the Tennis Academy of the South (TAS) in Sandy Springs had a great influence on him.
Playing ALTA has been one of the primary reasons why Paul has continued to play tennis for many years. “Although I played soccer and basketball at various times and loved the camaraderie of being on a team, tennis became my focus in high school. Tennis is an individual sport, but ALTA has Junior Team tennis and the Challenge Ladder which feel like community,” he says. Paul added that his ALTA team experiences were “awesome,” and says he knows he will continue to be friends with many of those teammates in the future.
Discipline, patience, and a good work ethic are some traits that Paul has developed through tennis. By gaining confidence in himself, that has helped him grow and learn and also enabled him to take leadership roles on his tennis teams and in school organizations. “I like to think I set a good example for my classmates and younger students,” he says. “I also hope that I have influenced and inspired friends and classmates to become interested in tennis, as I want to give back to the game that has been so significant in my life.” That hard work and discipline have earned him a future at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he will attend this fall.
Grace Pietkiewicz “I started playing tennis even before I can remember,” says Grace Pietkiewicz, as her mom put her on the courts at the Brittany Club in Brookhaven and at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center at a very young age. Through tennis, Grace says she has made great friends and learned incredible life lessons, such as how to persevere through difficult situations and to stand strong as an individual.
“My experience with ALTA also has been wonderful. In fact, my first official tennis match was through my nearby neighborhood Byrnwyck ALTA team,” says Grace. Additionally, through that same team, she met one of her closest friends, Madeline Meer (on the JCL from 2013-2016). Grace and Madeline won two, 5A state championships at Chamblee High School and are both traveling together through Europe this summer. This fall, Grace will attend Georgia Tech and will study Literature, Media, and Communications. She also plans to play tennis on a club team. “I am grateful for my experience with ALTA and encourage any young tennis players to participate in the Junior Challenge Ladder,” Grace says.
Look for the feature on our other four seniors — Tres Gonzalez, Garrett Johns, Jonathan Mascagni, and Imani Vincent, in the next issue of Net News.