One high school tennis standout does more than just win on the court. She works with at-risk youth, teaching them the sport in an effort to keep them away from drugs and gangs.
Shannon Mukerji, a 17-year-old senior at Shaker High School, volunteers with Project Safe and uses tennis to help at-risk youth work toward a better future.
“I wanted to create a tennis program because it is a good atmosphere. Tennis is a competitive sport, and it promotes mental toughness,” said Mukerji.
Mukerji started playing tennis in middle school. She said her older sister played, and she was always being dragged around to her tournaments so she decided to play, too, and began taking private lessons. In 2012, Mukerji won the Section II singles title and is currently one of the top-ranked tennis players in the state and the highest ranked player in the Capital District.
Project Safe, part of Safe Inc. in Schenectady, is a program that takes people ages 12-35 that have engaged in prostitution or are at risk of becoming involved in prostitution and gets them off the street. Mukerji made the decision to work with Safe, Inc. at a bowl-a-thon fundraiser raising money for the new shelter the organization was building.
“I wanted to do something with the Special Olympics, but they already had a tennis program, and when I learned about Safe, I decided I wanted to work with them,” said Mukerji.
When Mukerji created the program two years ago, she had to find a place where she could give tennis lessons, and she needed equipment for the people she would be teaching.
“I wrote to the USTA (United States Tennis Association), and they donated racquets, and Tri-City Fitness has indoor courts that they let us use,” said Mukerji. “I was really happy how everyone came on board.”