MaliVai Washington

2022 Good Neighbor Awards Winner

Diamond Life Real Estate
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

MaliVai Washington brought his passions for tennis and helping kids to a place where he could have the greatest impact: Jacksonville, Fla.’s 32209 ZIP code, one of the city’s most poverty-stricken areas. Over 26 years, the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation has not only introduced tennis to more than 20,000 youths from kindergarten through high school but also provided academic and life skills training. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty. The results are tremendous: In the surrounding community, 35% of households live below the poverty line and 20% of teens drop out of high school. By contrast, 100% of MWYF high schoolers graduate on time and then continue to either higher education or military service. Today, MWYF, which began with 25 kids on two abandoned tennis courts, serves more than 500 students annually at a state-of-the-art youth center. Former mentee Keanna Bell, now 29, started with MWYFat age 8 and eventually won a college scholarship and graduated from Florida Athletic University. “Mal has inspired me throughout my life,” Bell says. “We came from this not-so-good part of town, but he showed me it’s what you do with the opportunities that you do have.” Washington, who played professional tennis for a decade and reached the Wimbledon finals in 1996, talks proudly about alumni like Bell who’ve become the first in their families to graduate from college or buy their first home. “I’m a big believer in real estate as a long-term wealth builder,” says Washington, who teaches an optional class to older MWYF students on real estate and finance. “My hope is to plant the seed. Maybe something we say triggers change in the future.”

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