Palmetto High School senior Francesca Castan has accumulated more than 1,000 community service hours, many gained while running around on a tennis court.
“I worked as a Sony Ericsson ball person,” she says. “I did it four years in a row.”
At first, she worked the outer courts, but now she works the finals.
“Last year, I got to work the men’s final match between Andy Murray and David Ferrer; Murray won,” she says.
The job seems deceptively simple – chase balls around the court. But there is protocol that needs to be adhered to in order to do the job well. “You can’t roll in between serves, you can’t roll after a person faults,’ she says.
“You can only roll in a straight line. You have to do four trainings before you go onto the court.”
Protocol also dictates that the ball person remain silent unless they are asking the player what they want. They are not allowed to collect autographs or accept a gift from a player.
But despite the restrictions, Castan loves to work the event. She’s a tennis player and tennis coach, so she gets to rub shoulders with the greatest players in the sport. Castan has played for the Palmetto team for three years. She says she loves to coach.
She coaches at three different schools several days a week.
“I like to watch how the kids improve,” she says, adding that she enjoys interacting with the younger players because they often say the darndest things and many times make her feel good with a chance remark.
“You really never know what the kids are going to say to you,” she says. “You could be having the worst day and they might say something that changes how you feel.”
Castan’s love for kids led her to become involved with a Special Olympics summer camp as a volunteer counselor.
“One of my friends’ little sister goes to the camp and she asked us if we wanted to go,” Castan says. “Went bowling with them and had talent shows where we would get them involved. We went to the beach and also went kayaking and bowling. I loved it.
All the kids were so happy for us to be with them and playing sports with them.” At Palmetto, Castan was class secretary in her sophomore and junior years. This year, she is secretary of community service, an education peer for the Health Information Project, secretary for the National Honor Society and treasurer of the Pink Ribbon Club.
Outside of school, she volunteers time with Habitat for Humanity. “We build houses for people in Liberty City,” she says. Last year, Castan earned her Girl Scout Gold Award by fixing up the playground at the Transitions North Women’s Shelter.
“We fixed up the playground so the kids could have a place to play,” she says.
The Girl Scouts also renovated a room to add a library for the residents. They stocked the library with SAT and ACT study books, as well as children’s books and coloring books. “We put in the kinds of things that kids find entertaining and fun,” she says.
“We painted it yellow to brighten it up. I used a lot of the money we made from cookie sales to get couches, bookshelves and lamps. We got chalkboard paint for a section of the wall for the kids.”
Castan has applied to the University of Florida, University of Texas, Duke and the University of North Carolina. She plans to study nutrition.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld