Thursday December 19, 2013
The Rotary Club of South Burlington presented its annual “Fred Tuttle Award” to Jacob W. (Jake) Agna, Thursday December 12, during their holiday celebration at the Windjammer Restaurant. The Frederick H Tuttle Memorial Award is given each year to a South Burlington resident who goes beyond the expected, bringing extraordinary zeal and integrity to everything in which that person is involved, while enhancing the South Burlington community at large. Jake Agna meets that criteria and then some!
Agna, who is really only referred to as “Jake” has worked at the South Burlington Sports and Fitness Edge facility and has coached the South Burlington High School Girls Tennis team for 30 years. Prior to moving to South Burlington, he spent 10 years teaching and playing tennis in Cincinnati- living a life of tennis.
For the last fourteen years Jake has been director of the “Kids on the Ball” program which was founded in the summer of 2000, when he invited 20 children from the King Street Center to join the “junior development” program at the Edge Sports and Fitness club in South Burlington. He established this program believing that what they learned would not only give them a life-long sport, but that it would also help them develop important social skills. The program has grown from a summer program to include an afterschool program, as well as in-school training at elementary and middle schools. In 2006 Agna’s initiative and commitment to community tennis was recognized at the national level when he won the Eve Kraft USTA Community Service Award of the Year from the United States Tennis Association for “Kids on the Ball.”
Jake noted, “Rich or poor, black or white … whatever. On the tennis court none of that matters. It’s all about working together, working hard and having fun. Tennis can help kids develop the drive, discipline and direction needed for success – in sports and in life.”
In addition to the “Kids on the Ball” program, Agna also helped create and manage a “Progressive Class” for at risk teens from South Burlington High School which meets twice a week during the school year.
Like Fred Tuttle, Jake Agna exemplifies how a person’s day-to-day work, his vocation, can enrich the community. Thousands of people have learned to play tennis, and hundreds of low income children have acquired experiences often not easily available to them. At risk teens from all walks of life acquire “coping skills” while having fun learning to play a competitive sport.
In accepting this award, Jake thanked his wife Patty for being “really supportive of a lifestyle that is chaotic” and he acknowledged with gratitude, the support of the Edge in allowing him to develop the “Kids on the Ball” program and providing support for him to continue this work he loves. As he said himself “I feel lucky. I get to play tennis all day long.” In addition to his wife, many friends came to join in celebrating Jake’s award including 3 members of his girls tennis team at SBHS.
For additional information, please contact Matt Johnson, President of the South Burlington Rotary Club (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rotarian Jay Pasackow (email@example.com) or Rotarian Sandy Walsh (firstname.lastname@example.org).