East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring to leave Stanford campus

University opts against renewing contract with longtime nonprofit

After providing tennis lessons, tutoring and support to disadvantaged youth for more than 20 years on the Stanford University campus, East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring will have to find a new home in 2019. The university recently decided against renewing its contract with the youth nonprofit.

Kesha Weekes, academic director and middle-school group director for EPATT, said Friday that the university notified the nonprofit several months ago of its decision.

In a statement, the university said it requires more space to accommodate the "growing needs of the Stanford Athletics Department — including programming support for student-athletes and the expansion and creation of recreational and wellness programs for students and staff."

The decision is a blow to the longtime nonprofit, which has deep roots at Stanford. Jeff Arons, a former Stanford All-American tennis player, founded the organization as a summer tennis program in 1988 with the then-head men's tennis coach, Dick Gould (who still remains involved as an EPATT board member).

Over the years, the organization evolved into an academic program that now provides one-on-one tutoring by Stanford students, college visits, parent education, tennis instruction and other support services for about 120 elementary, middle and high school students from East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park each year.

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring moved into Stanford's Taube Tennis Center in 1998.

The on-campus location has been invaluable to the nonprofit's mission of changing the trajectories of at-risk and underserved youth, Weekes said.

"We stress with our students and our families the importance of college and career readiness," she said. "What better platform from which to emphasize that message than being on a college campus?"

Being at Stanford helped to make college a more realistic, normal and comfortable goal for students, she said.

Being housed on campus also made it easier for Stanford students and staff to volunteer their time with the organization, Weekes said. The experience of making a tangible difference in students' lives — watching a young child go from struggling with reading and writing to graduating from high school, for example — was equally impactful for the tutors themselves, Weekes said. It exposes them to community service careers, which some tutors have gone on to pursue.

Weekes said nonprofits from around the country have visited East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring to model their own programs after it. As a Stanford alumna, she was "disappointed" by the university's decision to end this model.

"We have inspired programs at other small, large, elite, private, public universities to do the same thing because they recognize — what a great idea, bringing kids to a university," she said.

The EPATT board is currently "feverishly pursuing" options for a new home for the nonprofit, Weekes said. The goal is to move to East Palo Alto, where many of the organization's families live. This would increase access, Weekes hopes.

The nonprofit has a lengthy waiting list, and there are still some families who logistically can't get their children to Stanford for the program so aren't able to participate.

Having their own facility could also mean being more accessible to youth and community members who are not part of the program — such as a center that others could use, Weekes said.

"We can do more tennis for more people at more times; more tutoring for more people at more times." she said. "Opening up a facility where we control the hours gives us opportunity to serve more people without limitations."

She sees the end of East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring's tenure at Stanford as an opportunity to think strategically about the next phase for the nonprofit — "not just to replicate what we've done here but to grow … and deepen the work that we've done."

In 2015, East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring launched a pilot early literacy program in partnership with the Palo Alto school district. That serves about 15 students annually, according to the nonprofit. There is also an East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring summer program.

Weekes stressed the gratitude EPATT feels for Stanford's support, in facilities and otherwise. The organization hopes to maintain a strong cohort of student tutors, as well as a positive relationship with the university.

"Twenty years at Stanford is really a privilege and we're grateful every student has been able to benefit, every Stanford student and staff member who has also reaped the benefits of being involved," she said. "Now, it's time for a new chapter in the story of our program."

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said that in recent years, Stanford has ended agreements with other organizations when it needed athletics facilities for "campus uses."


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8 people like this
Posted by SP
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2017 at 3:43 pm

The article missed the impact that EPATT has had on Stanford students. Being on campus has made it much easier for students to volunteer with the organization and be impacted by the stories and lives of the kids. The impact of EPATT is two-way.

Moving back to East Palo Alto will make it MUCH more difficult for Stanford students to be involved. The distance is not that far, but trying to get to East Palo Alto from Stanford between 3pm and 7pm on a weeknight can take well over an hour due to the traffic. Bicycling and walking is faster, but many students, especially females, do not feel safe on that route, and in particular with the news of the problems downtown Palo Alto is having with flashers and muggers, its going to be difficult for EPATT to get the needed volunteers.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident One
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2017 at 10:01 am

Here are my thoughts I'm sure not appreciated is that Little East Palo Alto is only in distance a 2.6 mile city. One, East Palo Alto is the most dense city in San Mateo County with upwards of 15,000 people per square mile. If EPATT plans on coming to East Palo Alto they need to understand city economics. There are so many schools churches and my goodness community based organizations there isn't room for one more - no joke don't care how good you are or how many students you're serving. East Palo Alto must take a stand to become economically viable or with all these non-profit uses we will be broke and poorer. Two, solution - partner with like entities like schools and churches to find a location. And please don't ask the city to kick in. We are tired of CBO's and Shelter folks asking for our tax dollars. Not all services have to fall into EPA. Let Menlo Park fund and house something. Too much of a good thing has turned EPA into a trap for people to come from as far away as Santa Cruz to come to EPA for help and services while making our city less likely to succeed with a downtown and industry for employment. You could argue EPATT is a funnel for new tech workers and I agree. There are just too many CBO's here now. Third, and this won't happen but if EPA takes on a new CBO one less active needs to leave. That's it in a nutshell.... ah tennis ball!

2 people like this
Posted by Used to love Stanford
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 6, 2017 at 11:15 am

Stanford's reputation has gone downhill for some years, when it became more interested in development and big money, and hired a former Palo Alto councilmember to lead the onslaught. She has a nice sounding title that disguises her real expertise.

They need space for aggressive, violent sports like football? For shame.
Stanford, I used to love you.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm

What does football have to do with the use of tennis facilities? The article says that the tennis teams need more time on their own courts.

Like it or not, a big portion of Stanford's athletic department revenue comes from the Pac-12 tv network --- which comes from football broadcasts. No football, no TV contract, no funding of all of the no-profit sports such as tennis.

2 people like this
Posted by Danice Brown
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2017 at 8:11 am

EPATT has been a beacon light of inspiration for the other 550 National Junior Tennis & Learning(NJTL) Chapters located across the United States. NJTL Chapters like Portland Tennis & Education were modeled after the program that was created to benefit and enrich the lives underserved children. Stanford University's student body has been EPATT's primary source of volunteer tutors, who have benefited because they have had the opportunity to get involved in volunteer service "because the opportunity was located on campus". David Higaki, Executive Director and his talented team at EPATT have given Stanford University students an "on-campus training ground for a life-changing community service." I have no doubt that EPATT will find a way to continue the incredible work they do to benefit the lives of underserved children and their families. And, when it is all said and done, it will be Stanford University's greatest loss. Danice Brown, Executive Director, Portland Tennis & Education

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