Inner City Youth Opportunities (ICYO) was founded in 1993 as a 501(C)3 non-profit organization by Cincinnati residents Jeanne and Philip Bell to help children living in the inner city that were experiencing family problems and struggling to become better students, both academically and socially. Their goal was to help these children develop the ability to resist negative peer pressure and increase the skills needed to achieve their dreams by remaining in school and graduating from high school.
While tennis may seem purely recreational, the Bells observed the results of other tennis programs that had successfully integrated sports and character building activities. They wanted to use tennis to help children in the inner city areas of Cincinnati, Ohio develop their talents and abilities. Their investigation and ideas resulted in a pilot program using tennis to teach 25 children goal setting, better communications, problem solving, self-discipline, how to manage mistakes, leadership skills and personal accountability for life choices. Those children all attended Washburn Elementary School in the West End.
As relationships developed between the children and Ms. Bell, ICYO tennis instructors and volunteers, Ms. Bell realized that as a result of a lack of an adult’s attention to their education and a lack of guidance from adults important in their lives, many were failing at school due to truancy and behavior problems that resulted in frequent suspensions. She realized that any hope of success for these children demanded that these needs be addressed. In response, she expanded the original scope of ICYO by adding academic intervention and youth development programs to the organization resulting in its current structure. ICYO’s method is unique, as it uses a long term, comprehensive, year round program at no cost to participants, and provides transportation to and from all ICYO activities.