The College of Staten Island men’s and women’s tennis programs have found a new way to make the most of their talents, lending it to students at Staten Island’s Public School 19 as part of the institution’s School Enrichment Model. The 10-week program sees a group of PS 19 students learning tennis first hand from CSI players and coaches, culminating in a field trip to CSI to take to the courts alongside their favorite student-athletes.
Partnering with CSI for the first time, the School Enrichment Model (SEM) is in its 4th year at PS 19, where students from different classrooms from both the 4th and 5th Grade get to choose an out-of-classroom physical activity in a showcase that features outside instruction for an hour and 45 minutes each Friday afternoon. That’s when PS 19 substitute teacher Carissa Sommerlad, who also works at the CSI Community Tennis Center, reached out the head coach Paul Ricciardi and members of his team.
“It’s a great partnership,” said Ricciardi. “We didn’t know what to expect from committing to a vast program like this, but the team is really having a lot of fun with it and it feels good to actually pass on the sport to young people who may otherwise never touch a tennis racquet.”
The PS 19 students who take part in the program can only participate if they complete their classroom work during the week, and it’s helped them focus more in the classroom, according to PS 19’s SEM liaison Mrs. Jamie Solano.
“This is an opportunity for our kids to explore their talents in the arts and sports,” Solano said. “Many of our students in our program are Special Education students who suffer from poor hand-eye coordination and behavior issues, and this repetitive schedule and the patience exhibited by the CSI tennis team with them has made an unbelievable difference. Our kids are loving it.”
Combining a mix of tennis instruction, health and exercise regimen, and simple fun and games, the CSI students offer one-on-instruction and even perform for the PS 19 students. The 10-week program has been so successful, that both Ricciardi and PS 19 decided to run the program an extra three weeks. For Ricciardi, the mentoring means just as much for his squads than it does for the elementary classes.
“The spirit of giving your time and energy when it comes to tennis for something other than the team has really made us closer,” Ricciardi said. “We’re learning to work together in other ways. Its community activity like this that really makes what we achieve as a team worthwhile.”
The CSI students agree.
“It’s great to help out these kids who really don’t get a chance to play tennis in schoolyards or in their neighborhoods,” said Joe Taranto, senior. “We’re teaching tennis and they are enjoying it. It’s just a great experience all the way around.”
Dan Ursomanno, a freshman who will make his debut on the court this season for the Dolphins loves the preseason experience with the youngsters.
“CSI Tennis is like a family, we eat together, play together, and now we are teaching together. Its really awesome and it’s made us all a little closer,” Ursomanno said.
CSI plans to continue the partnership with PS 19 for years to come, welcoming a new lot of students, and maybe some familiar faces, in future classes.
“The kids tell us this is their best field trip ever,” Ursomanno said. “What may not be a lot for us means the world to them. It feels good to be a part of that.”