The idea for Serve the Future began the first summer of the coronavirus pandemic when Leslie Banks helped run a small tennis camp for students in the Phoenix Union School District. While administering the tennis camp, she grew increasingly passionate about creating a more encompassing program to help and elevate these hardworking, inspiring teenagers through the game of tennis
Leslie saw the hunger to learn how to play a sport that she loves. The hunger in the eyes of young people who can’t afford lessons and clinics. Tennis provided so much joy for her as a player and coach that she wanted share it, and provide them access to a sport they can play for a lifetime. While they learn how to play, they can learn many life lessons such as responsibility, self-confidence, and perseverance. Every time these youths show up to practice they are showing up for themselves and not their parents or someone else. The fact that they want to be there is exciting and contagious.
The organization is based in this area of Phoenix because Phoenix Union School District is nationally recognized district for many reasons. It (and many of the Middle and Elementary school districts that feed into Phoenix Union) serves a 95 percent minority population and receives federally mandated desegregation funding. Diversity is a hallmark in the district, with 81 percent of students identifying as Latino and a large refugee population that represents over 71 languages. More than half of the students come from homes where English is not the primary language spoken (https://www.pxu.org/Page/106 ). Additionally, 35% of families in Phoenix Union live below the poverty line (according to datacenter.kidscount.org), a sharp and alarming contrast with surrounding school districts. Further, language and economic barriers make a sport like tennis challenging to access, and many of the high schools within the PXU do not offer strong, if any, tennis programs for their students.