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St. Petersburg Student-Athlete Wins National Award

July 28, 2008 01:13 PM


By Nancy Morgan 

Jerica Coley, 16, was honored this month at the St. Petersburg Hilton as the inaugural First Serve National Student Athlete Competition champion. Trey Buchholz, founder and CEO of the First Serve not-for-profit organization, recognized Coley's achievements in tennis and in the classroom and extended an invitation from the national board of directors to be the first member of its National Honor Society.

"Jerica is a model for all young people and has set high standards for the future," said Buchholz. "Her development on the tennis courts and in the classroom is outstanding. Her grades included 15 As and one B this year, and in five tennis tournaments, she won eight of 12 matches. It seems when Jerica puts her mind to it, she can do anything."

First Serve combines the teaching of tennis skills with life skills and offers after-school tutoring opportunities. Its mission includes empowering youth with skills, values and experiences needed to be responsible, productive and successful in life.  First Serve's nationwide contest among its 17 First Serve chapters included tabulating academic grades and results in junior tennis tournaments from August 21, 2007 to July 15, 2008 to determine the 2007-2008 winner. Coley held the No. 1 spot in the girls division for 34 weeks.

"Jerica is a tremendous role model and is the perfect recipient of this award," said Jackie Keller, SPTC's general manager and director of its First Serve chapter. "She's such a good young person and is an inspiration for all of us. This honor will certainly motivate the others at the center."

Among the partners of First Serve is the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, who presented Coley with a scholarship check for $5,000. In addition, a plaque with a statement of congratulations from her favorite player Venus Williams was presented and, along with Wilson Sporting Goods, a racquet, tennis bag, posters and tennis balls.

"We at the WTA Tour are committed to First Serve and find a perfect mix with teaching tennis and life skills," said Peachy Kellmeyer, senior vice-president of the women's professional organization. "You can see Jerica comes from a solid family. This will open some doors for Jerica and I know she'll give back some day."

Buchholz announced a final award in recognition of Coley's achievement: a trip to New York during the U.S. Open Championships for her and her parents.  

"This is just a real honor for me to receive this award and I feel very privileged to have gotten it," said the rising St. Petersburg Catholic junior. "I was real excited when I knew I was in the lead and, once I got there, I wanted to stay in first."






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