KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's perhaps the last sport one would associate with the hardscrabble streets of Kalihi.
"Tennis? We never played tennis over here?" recounts Vailima Watson.
She admits, it wasn't an easy sell to skeptical area kids at first.
"It was really hard to get volunteers, so I said 'well I know tennis...I know tennis good enough."
Watson and her husband Jerry launched the Kalihi Youth Tennis Program at Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services in 1989. They haven't looked back.
"The whole idea is to engage kids of any age in sports, so they get interested. Then along with the sports activities comes a whole different variety comes a different variety of social development activities," said Jerry.
The couple says they've taken students everywhere from the opera to the Bishop Museum. Of course, the lessons spill over to the classroom as well.
"I learned how to work hard, not only in tennis but in school," said Farrington student Florence Lazo.
Fellow student Cassey Mandado added, "It made me more competitive and made me want to go to a competitive school like UC Berkeley."
Mandado's dream is to go from being a 'Gov' to a 'Golden Bear'. Like so many before, the mentorship is giving him a shot at making it happen.
"We've had many who've been real successful in college. We have one boy that's working on his PhD in mathematics," said Vailima.