Tennis Stars And Celebrities Celebrate The Work Of The Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program

April 26, 2024

By HJTEP

Luminaries from the world of tennis, celebrity tennis fans, philanthropists and supporters celebrated the impactful work of the Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program (HJTEP).

The HJTEP held its 52nd Annual Gala on May 13, 2024, at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City.

“… celebrates the success of the nearly 1,000 youngsters …”


Emceed by WCBS-TV news anchor Maurice DuBois, the star-studded gala celebrated the success of the nearly 1,000 youngsters who benefit from HJTEP tennis and education programs annually. 

Three of HJTEP’s most ardent supporters were honored in 2024: Stan Smith, the Hall of Fame tennis player who might be even more famous for his signature footwear; Michelle Blake-Wilson, a proud HJTEP alumna and Board member who is managing partner of contemporary marketing agency The B’elle Group; and Johnson & Johnson MedTech -working to solve the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges through innovations at the intersection of biology and technology.

A highlight of the gala was the live auction which offered priceless and unique packages including: a 2025 Indian Wells Merchandise, BNP Paribas Open VIP Package including, box seats, airfare and accommodations; a golf outing with Stan Smith at a private golf club in the Hamptons; a seven-night Grand Mayan Mexico Experience, and an Under The Tuscan Sun luxury private four-bedroom villa in Tuscany to accommodate up to eight guests, with cooking and cleaning services and an Italian wine tour. 


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“The success of the HJTEP for the past 52 years would not have been possible without the selfless commitment from scores of people like Stan and Michelle and corporations such as Johnson & Johnson who have supported our mission and helped us grow,” said Katrina Adams, HJTEP Executive Director.  “We look forward to this opportunity to thank our friends and supporters and introduce them to many of the youngsters directly benefitting from our programs.”

The Shining Star Award recognizes an individual who has shone their light on HJTEP.  It was presented to Stan Smith, a revered figure in the sport for his on-court achievements, quiet confidence, ineffable dignity, and unshakable integrity. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987, the 6’4” Californian rose to prominence in the 1960’s and 1970’s, capturing 64 singles titles (48 in the Open era) including the 1971 US Open and 1972 Wimbledon Championships. He also teamed with Bob Lutz to earn four US Open doubles titles and one an Australian Open crown. Additionally, he compiled a 37-5 match record as a member of 11 U.S Davis Cup teams, including seven winning squads. 

“… transcending the boundaries of sport …”

However, Smith’s influence extends far beyond his athletic prowess. In collaboration with Adidas, he introduced the iconic Stan Smith tennis sneakers in 1971. These shoes, distinguished by their minimalist design and timeless appeal, became a cultural phenomenon, transcending the boundaries of sport to leave an indelible mark on fashion and popular culture more than 50 years later.

The James R. Kelly III Chairman’s Award honors a visible and vocal supporter of HJTEP who has been both a leader in supporting youth and who promotes the importance of education. Michelle Blake-Wilson, a member of the HJTEP Board of Directors since 2010 is the 2024 honoree Currently, the managing partner of The B’elle Group, she has developed and executes sponsorship activation programs for some of the most recognizable brands in the world.  She also serves as CEO of ONYX Media, a digital platform celebrating the stories of Black women and girls through the lens of sport. A graduate of Hampton University, she earned her MBA from Columbia University in 2004.  Michelle is a half-sister of former ATP players James and Thomas Blake, who, like Michelle and her other brother Jason, all participated in the HJTEP program as children. 

Johnson & Johnson MedTech

The HJTEP Corporate Award is being presented this year to Johnson & Johnson MedTech whose support of HJTEP for more than a decade has included providing first aid kits and financial grants. Johnson & Johnson MedTech’s future engagement will offer mentorship, enhancement of HJTEP STEM opportunities, and much more. 

HJTEP

The Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program builds champions for life in tennis, education, and wellness. HJTEP continues to bring tennis to youth from high-risk, low-income inner-city neighborhoods while offering opportunities for self-development, emphasizing education and a positive code of behavior. Tennis teaches children essential life skills, sportsmanship, self-discipline, social and emotional competence and how to lead healthier lives. HJTEP insists on academic achievement, and the average GPA of participants is 3.1. The 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization opens a new door for many underserved boys and girls, ages 6-18, to learn the game of tennis and to achieve academic success.  With, a 95% high school graduation rate, 25% of graduates earning tennis scholarships, a 3.1 average GPA for participants, and more than 80% of program graduates attending college, HJTEP’s results speak for the continuing success of its programs.

Partnering with local schools and community centers, HJTEP serves students year-round during the school year and with summer programs.  The experience on the courts and in HJTEP’s education programs develops the “whole child”—in sports, school, and life. Tennis teaches kids essential life skills, sportsmanship, self-discipline, social and emotional competence, and how to fight obesity and lead healthier lives. In their after-school programming, participants also learn to improve communication skills and raise their fitness levels.  For more information visit www.HJTEP.org 

Photo credit: The Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program.


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