Inner City Youth Opportunities (ICYO) was founded in 1993 as a 501(C)3 non-profit organization by Cincinnati residents Jeanne and Philip Bell, Indian Hill residents, to help low income 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 met with the founder of the Israel Tennis and Education Center that had successfully integrated tennis and education. Jeanne and Philip Bell wanted to use tennis to help children in the inner-city areas of Cincinnati, Ohio develop their talents and abilities and be successful in school. Their investigation and ideas resulted in a pilot program using tennis to teach 25 children tennis including goal setting, better communications, problem solving, self-discipline, how to manage losing and winning, leadership skills and personal accountability for life choices. Those children all attended Washburn Elementary School in the West End and were chosen by the school counselor, Douglas Shear.
As relationships developed between the children, Jeanne and Philip Bell, ICYO staff, tennis instructors and volunteers, Jeanne 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.