Students from both sides of the border learn tennis, teamwork

Students from both sides of the border learn tennis, teamwork
Source: Tucson News Now
Source: Tucson News Now
Source: Tucson News Now

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Any other day of the year, the U.S. Mexico border separates these students on both sides of Nogales. 

On Sunday, the only separation was a net.

Different tennis courts sported different activities at the University of Arizona. Some students hoped with a little practice, they might become pros.

What these students may have walked away with, though, is a lesson deeper than hitting the ball.

"No matter what's blocking us, we're all the same and we can all play together," said Marilu Portillo.

Portillo is from Nogales, Arizona. She was one of a few dozen students from both Arizona and Sonora that teamed up for Campus Kids Day.

It was a chance to meet each other in person for the first time, after only working together from a distance.

Charlie Cutler, Executive Director of Border Youth Tennis Exchange said, "The kids, they know each other. They've seen each other's videos they make."

BYTE promotes higher education through the sport, due to limited resources in Nogales. They also advocate for inclusion.

Rosa Berdeja appreciates those qualities as a grandmother to some of the kids in attendance.

"It's very beautiful to see them all together. In the media it's always violent and bad stuff about the border," Berdeja said.

Those on the court said it serves as a way to end the divisiveness across borders.

BYTE works with the American consulate and Customs and Border Protection to make events like the one on Sunday happen.

Cutler explained, "We've found that even within the structures of government people are willing to support positive youth programming."

Skills kids like Marilu can carry with them later down the line.

"We're not letting the border separate us," Portillo said.

They are opponents in the sport only and always there to reach out at the end of the match.

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