By Jim Berry

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) —  A South Florida woman is on a mission to prepare kids for life through tennis. Rebecca Zephir has been mentoring young people in the Goulds area this way for more than a year.

But this feel good story actually started with some bad news when Zephir was laid off from her job with the Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department.

“Things happen for a reason,” Zephir told CBS4’s Jim Berry. “I felt bad for a day then I had to look forward and ask myself, ‘What are you going to do next?’”

Zephir decided her next move was simply to keep doing what she had done as a county employee; teach kids tennis.

A year ago, she launched Serve It Up Kidz, a program that she is funding out of her own pocket.

“A lot of kids in our community, they don’t have the opportunity to try tennis,” she explained.

But with Zephir as their tennis taskmaster, kids at Goulds Park are getting constant lessons, not just in tennis, but in life.

“Problem solving is the big thing I want them to get,” she said. “Understanding that things don’t come easy and that’s OK. They don’t have to be. they’re not supposed to be easy. ”

Like her tennis program, Zephir’s love of the sport came at the grassroots level. She’s self-taught and mentors her kids on the fine art of becoming self-motivated.

Her approach is simply to urge kids to pump themselves up during tough matches and tough moments in life.

“When you’re having a tough day at school, how do you talk to yourself, what do you say to get yourself through that situation?”

Her tennis students, who are elementary and middle school age, say being in the program has made a difference.

When asked what they are learning, one student replied, “How to do my best every time.”

Another answered, “I’m getting confidence for my first tournament in March.

On these courts, confidence is not lacking and their coach hopes their confidence helps fulfill her long-term vision for the program.

Zephir said her goals are to “have junior players playing sanctioned tournaments ranked in the state and then going on to college on tennis scholarships.”

One of her students already has his plan in place and wants to study robotic engineering in college.

That kind of ambition will keep Zephir lugging her gear to the courts for as long as she can.

“It’s what I love, it’s what I was born to do so I will keep coming out and teaching these kids no matter what.”

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