After watching Althea, a documentary about the life of tennis star Althea Gibson, the students at the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington felt something needed to be done to honor Gibson’s legacy.
“I was like, this doesn’t make sense. It’s like she has been forgotten,” said GLOW Academy student Jai’Leia Jefferies.
“I thought it was terrible that nothing was named after someone that brought a lot of change for African-Americans in tennis,” said GLOW Academy student Xerra Robinson.
Shortly after watching the film, the students partnered up with One Love Tennis and wrote letters to the U.S. Tennis Association, saying something needed to be done to remember Gibson.
In all, 40 letters where given to USTA Chairman and President Katrina Adams, who read each of them.
Almost a year after the letters were written, the USTA announced in February that a statue of Gibson will be erected at the site of the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y.
“It was heartwarming. I was excited and glad,” said Robinson.
“When I found out it was going to happen, I was jumping on my bed because I was so happy,” said GLOW student Destiny Giechen.
Gibson, who went to high school in Wilmington, was the first African-American to win the US Nationals — the precursor to the US Open — in 1957.
Gibson won the national tournament again in 1958 and recorded 11 Grand Slam titles during her career. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
In addition to learning about Wilmington history, the GLOW students also took home an important life lesson.
“The difference can be made if you just step up to the plate, and stand up for what is right and do it the right way,” One Love Tennis founder Lenny Simpson said. “Lots of things can happen.”
One Love Tennis is raising funds for some of the GLOW Academy students to attend the 2018 U.S. Open.
Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.