TUCSON, Ariz. - The Border Youth Tennis Exchange program brought nearly 50 kids to the University of Arizona on Sunday, to teach them about tennis and tech. 19 kids came from Nogales, AZ, and 29 of them traveled across the border from Nogales, Sonora for the event.
Charlie Cutler is the director of the event. He explained around three months of preparation went into the day at the U of A. In order to put it on, they had to work with three governmental organizations and seven non-governmental organizations. Many of the kids coming from Mexico didn't have passports, so they had to give them one-day humanitarian paroles so they could participate in the event, according to Cutler.
He hopes to teach these kids to pursue their passions, regardless of what country they come from, as well as for them to learn that even though a fence separates their communities, they have a lot more in common than they may think.
"Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, are both pretty low income communities," Cutler said. "I really just hope that they can have this time on an internationally renown campus to see not only what tennis can give them in their lives, but also what their academics can bring them -- that they can find a future in an institution like this one."
Marilou Portillo is from Nogales, AZ, and was one of the participants in the event. Family and tennis have allowed her to learn more about life on the other side of the border, she says.
"We go back and forth, back and forth," Portillo said. "We practice tennis in Nogales, Arizona, and we just started Saturday classes in Nogales, Sonora, and it's amazing to see how we can just easily cross and go play tennis and meet people."
Even though there are two towns, Portillo says many treat Nogales as one big community.
As is the case for every tennis player, every town has it's strengths and it's weaknesses. Portillo says Nogales' soft-spots drive her to swing for success as she grows up.
"All the time we see people living on the streets and people that don't have jobs, it's pretty hard," she said. "All we want is to make it in life."