Foundation scholarship recipient Ling setting his sights high

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March 15, 2017 12:27 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA Foundation

Described by his coaches and teachers as one of the most inspirational students they know, Jinjie Ling has lofty goals – goals that may only be topped by his relentless drive to give back to the community and his ambition to succeed.

Still a teenager, Jinjie has designs on changing the world. But for those who know him best, those aspirations may not be all that far out of reach.

In no particular order, the Houston native wants to find a cure for cancer, become the greatest scientist of his generation and use tennis to inspire the leaders of tomorrow. The latter holds a special place in Jinjie’s heart because tennis played a pivotal role in crafting him into the person he is today.

The USTA Foundation named Jinjie a 2016 Dwight F. Davis Memorial Scholarship recipient. The $10,000 award is granted to two high school seniors each year who have performed with distinction and have actively participated in extracurricular activities, community service and an organized tennis program.

Jinjie, who competed in USTA-sanctioned tournaments in Texas, put the money toward college tuition at Duke University, where he is in his second semester majoring in molecular biology and conducting biomedical research on the DNA damage response of cancer in the school of medicine. In addition, he’s involved with the university’s Special Olympics chapter as well as other service organizations that interact with hospitals, rehabilitation centers and retirement homes throughout the community.

The teenager’s involvement in tennis runs deep. It began when he, a self-described uninspired 9-year-old shriveling in the Texas summer heat, was introduced to the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network at Meyerland Park in Southwest Houston.

Having recently relocated to Texas, Jinjie had few friends at the time. Tennis afforded him the opportunity to meet new people and develop a lasting relationship with his coaches and the sport itself.

“My experiences in NJTL inevitably grew to be something very special,” said Jinjie, who was a National AP Scholar, Texas All-State musician, U.S. Biology Olympiad national semifinalist and four-year varsity tennis player at Bellaire Senior High School.

“As a child, I was very reserved, and having just recently moved to Houston, I was often very lonely. Through NJTL, however, I was able to develop lasting relationships with people from all across the Houston community, and even to this day, many of them continue to be an important part of my life. That these people were so willing to befriend someone they had never met before really touched me and it gave me a sense of acceptance that, for the first time in my life, made me feel as though I truly belonged in the Houston community.”

Bellaire High School student counselor Trish Magilke described Jinjie as one of the most exceptional students she has ever worked with, lauding his volunteer work and his willingness to extend the boundaries of the classroom into the community.

“I’m not sure how he finds enough hours in the day to do it all,” Magilke said of Jinjie, who was a research assistant at MD Anderson Cancer Center and conducted extensive research into cancer therapeutics and human leukemia in high school. “And on top of it all, to also be an exceptional student in the top of his graduating class, it’s simply unfathomable. All in all, Jinjie has a huge heart and solid persistence for doing anything he commits to.”

It was coach Henry Washington who first cultivated Jinjie’s love of tennis at the Houston Tennis Association and, two years later, John Wilkerson who nurtured it further at the nonprofit Zina Garrison Tennis Academy. Jinjie played on, and was later captain of, his Junior Team Tennis team, and he volunteered to help aspiring athletes in the Houston area through Special Olympics Texas and the Houston parks and recreation department.

Describing Jinjie as an inspirational mentor and a positive leader, Washington praised him for “a selfless commitment to nurturing the students that he developed.”

“In the future, I see Jinjie assuming the role of a mentor-developer in his community,” he said. “As he continues to enhance his own knowledge and understanding of the world, he will grow to become an asset to his associate groups, community and world.”

Jinjie, now 19, says he’s indebted to his mentors for giving him the opportunity to play tennis, recognizing Washington for helping him understand the intrinsic beauty in the sport and thanking Wilkerson for the patience and leadership he showed him.

“When I think about the shy, timid child from 10 years ago and look at the person that I am today, I can’t help but think of all the mentors, friends and organizations that made my journey special,” Jinjie (pictured above left as a JTT coach) said. “It is time to give back to the sport that has done so much for me. It is time to shape the next generation of athletes who will one day be the leaders of our world.

“The USTA Foundation scholarship allowed me to attend a private institution that opened up many opportunities for me. In essence, the scholarship gave me the tools that would allow me to fulfill my career ambitions and make a meaningful contribution in the future. For that reason alone, I will always be grateful. I will always be an advocate for tennis and as I move forward to the next chapter of my life, I will never forget the experiences it has given me.”

 

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