Town Talk Features

Student Standouts: 12.2.20

aryan motwani of micds

Aryan Motwani was only 13 when he founded Ace Academy. The nonprofit teaches middle and high school students life lessons through tennis. Now, the MICDS senior is taking on a new challenge: the Hudlin Legacy Project. The initiative is working to restore the tennis courts in Hudlin Park and spotlight the accomplishments of its namesake, Richard Hudlin.

What inspired you to create Ace Academy?
I recognized an inequality of opportunity that was prevalent here. Forty-seven percent of St. Louis’ population is African American, but the majority live below the poverty line. I realized the best way to be a catalyst for change is to use tennis to bring people together regardless of race or socioeconomic status. I’ve played the sport for as long as I can remember, and it’s taught me so much.

Why do you think access is an important issue for tennis?
Tennis is a life sport. When you teach it to youth in the community, they learn more than just the game. Playing taught me the importance of following your passion and working hard and that my mistakes are a springboard for future growth, not a reason to close off. Ace Academy’s goal is to provide kids the opportunities to learn these lessons to use in their everyday lives.

How did you get involved with the Hudlin Legacy Project?
This summer, Ace Academy ran clinics at the Hudlin Park tennis courts. They aren’t in the greatest condition. We did the best we could, but it wasn’t a conducive environment to teach. The project is a collaborative effort between Ace Academy, MICDS, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University and the United Tennis Association to revitalize the courts and create a better environment to grow the game of tennis.

What did you learn about Richard Hudlin?
Another huge reason behind the project is to promote the work Richard Hudlin did in the community. He’s most well-known for mentoring Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. He was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers in the sport of tennis. He played at the University of Chicago and was the first African American to serve as team captain. In 1945, he filed a lawsuit to ensure African Americans could play on public tennis courts in St. Louis. Richard Hudlin is a local civil rights hero, and the condition of the courts does not reflect what he did for St. Louis and the players he taught.

How has it been adjusting to the school year with the pandemic?
It’s definitely been tough. I think MICDS is doing a great job empathizing with students. We are alternating between in-person and virtual learning. I love being able to go back to campus and have that social aspect of school, but I also understand that there are more important things we need to take care of. We need to take precautions to help people at risk for COVID-19. To help during the pandemic, Ace Academy has been collecting and distributing personal protective equipment to nursing homes and other facilities.

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