In addition to being a 4.0 student, president of her senior class, president of student ambassadors and a cheer captain, 17-year-old Azani Fitten recently won the 14th annual National Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest.
Chosen as one of 14 winners nationally, Fitten won a trip to New York City with her mother, Shelley Bolden. They will attend tennis’ U.S. Open, a Broadway show and will receive an award at a luncheon.
“I believe my essay was chosen as a winner because it answered the question of the topic very well,” said Fitten, who excels academically at Northeast Magnet High School and leads cheers at Heights.
The essay question was: “Why do you think Arthur Ashe created the National Junior Tennis and Learning network and how has your NJTL Chapter impacted your life?”
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Arthur Ashe, an African-American tennis player, won three Grand Slam events, including Wimbledon in 1975.
In her essay, Fitten discussed the how the McAdams tennis foundation started as a small group and has grown to having tournaments with as many as 75 people. She also talked about how having a black president would give Ashe hope today and how two of the top tennis players in the world, Venus and Serena Williams, are African-American.
“She had an excellent essay and it was coming from the heart,” said Alex Lee, president of McAdams Community Tennis foundation and Fitten’s coach. “When you read an essay and it kind of touches you, then you know it’s good.”
Fitten has been playing tennis for 10 years with the McAdams foundation and has written essays for the contest twice before. She thinks having athletes write essays is an important practice.
“I think any type of essay you write helps build your mind, but I think for athletes in general it’s good to know the history of sports,” Fitten said. “As a tennis player I think it’s good to know about Arthur Ashe because he started the NJTL tennis program and I’m a part of that.”
“I’m looking forward to meeting the other people who won the contest because I’d like to know what they think about the topic and just have a good time in New York with them,” Fitten said.
Both Bolden and Lee said Fitten has been dedicated to the McAdams program.
“She has worked as a tennis mentor and it has helped her become a leader in tennis,” Bolden said. “It’s not just the tennis part itself but developing leadership skills, her helping out has helped her grow as a person.”