NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Mayor Xay Khamsyvoravong declared May as National Tennis Month in Newport and it’s the first New England city to officially do so.

Tennis is diverse worldwide now more than ever and getting more children involved in the sport is one reason why.

At the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) in Newport, a group of middle schoolers are getting the chance to play thanks to a program known as TeamFAME.

“These children probably wouldn’t be exposed to the sport of tennis if it weren’t for this great program and we are very proud of that here in Newport,” said Bill Mountford, Director of Tennis at ITHF. “We must be super-inclusive in our sport. New players are always welcome.”

The program was launched in 2018 for under-resourced students in Newport and surrounding communities. Its goal is to promote academic success, character development, healthy lifestyles, and all students are offered a scholarship at no cost.

“We are so fortunate to be here at the Tennis Hall of Fame and these kids came to us in the 5th grade and had never played tennis before, so to give them this access and the opportunity really changes their lives,” TeamFAME Director Marguerite Marano said.

Eighth-grader Eleonor Joffre started playing tennis in 5th grade through the TeamFAME program.

“I really love the opportunities and learning how to play tennis with my peers,” she said. “Before tennis, I was just doing ballet, that’s my other sport, and then this opportunity opened up for me.”

Mountford says it inspires the children and gets them to go out each day and play.

“We are also able to help them academically with our tutors and nutrition over here at Canfield House,” he said. “So tennis is the hook but life skills is what we are really getting after with these children.”

After 8th grade, the program allows graduates to return as interns and mentors and earn in-training hours to become summer camp staff members.

“It feels like an honor, especially because of the position I used to be in back then,” said 9th grader Joseph Renfrow. “I didn’t have many resources back then and now I have the opportunity to give back to these children and it makes me feel really good.”

You can learn more about the program online.