For over 60 years, STEC, founded as the first African American tennis club in the US, has transformed the lives of thousands of youth from low and moderate-income minority neighborhoods such as Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park, South Boston, and Jamaica Plain, where challenges like poverty, youth violence, chronic disease, and educational disparities persist.

Annually, STEC engages 5,000 BIPOC youths, prioritizing holistic youth development through academic, wellness and social development programs alongside recreational and competitive tennis instruction. Their School to Sportsmen’s initiative supports students from five low-performing elementary schools in these neighborhoods through personalized tutoring and enrichment activities such as art and tennis. STEC promotes LGBTQ+ inclusion and adaptive tennis through partnerships like Tennis4All and Special Olympics. Collaborating with the Department of Public Health and local shelters, STEC supports homeless families and youth facing family challenges. Recognized with the USTA Chapter of the Year award in 2021, STEC excels in youth development through tennis.

Reflecting the diversity of the Blue Hill Corridor community, many staff members, including most of their leadership team, either currently reside in or have roots in the area. Some were former program participants who returned as teachers, tutors, and coaches, bringing a wealth of firsthand experience and an inclusive approach to their programs. This includes leaders such as Toni Wiley, who has served as Executive Director and CEO of Sportsmen’s since 2008. As a single parent who grew up in Dorchester and currently resides in Mattapan, Toni intimately understands the need for quality and affordable out-of-school time care. With extensive corporate and nonprofit leadership experience dedicated to ending domestic violence and family homelessness, Toni brings valuable insights to her role.

What is one leadership insight that you use to drive success within your organization?

Wiley: My personal philosophy, which I hope permeates my leadership style and Sportsmen’s as a whole, is that we always have to keep learning. Knowledge is never wasted! What we learn on the job today will benefit us and our communities for decades to come. We want our classroom teachers to WANT to be professional educators, our coaches to WANT to be certified, and our administrative staff to WANT to grow into whatever position and function excites them. We support that type of growth and investment at all levels of the organization.

Any other thoughts regarding your leadership style or professional journey you’d like to share?

Wiley: I would remind everyone that the path forward is not always linear. Mine has certainly not been! I’ve journeyed from the corporate world to the non-profit sector, from international logistics to tennis, education, health, and wellness, with stops along the way working in and learning about domestic violence, sexual assault, Jewish education, and homelessness. Never, ever stop learning and growing!

Original Article:
United Way of Massachusetts Bay | February 15, 2024