The mission of Border Youth Tennis Exchange is to enhance the lives of children and young adults on the U.S./Mexican border through tennis, education, and cross-border exchange.
What is BYTE?
Border Youth Tennis Exchange (BYTE) is a bi-national initiative that provides after-school tennis training and a specialized National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) after-school curriculum to youth on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Operating in the twin cities Nogales, AZ and Nogales, Sonora, BYTE programming highlights the universal characteristics of the children of ‘Ambos Nogales’—meaning ‘both Nogales.’ NJTL life skills activities are taught in the classroom and on the tennis court and cross-border projects and exchanges promote international trust and bi-cultural immersion.
BYTE calls attention to regional challenges that span across the wall and bridges the physical and social divide between historically similar communities. In this way, BYTE works to reclaim border narratives from the misrepresentations you often encounter in politics. By empowering youth to become global and cultural ambassadors, BYTE enhances the lives of border children and provides a model for international grassroots cooperation.
- Youth Engagement: Through professional tennis instruction and educational programming BYTE instills discipline, commitment, and positive life habits.
- Urban Outreach: BYTE promotes healthy border communities through preventative education and safe, close-to-home recreation for kids.
- Border Health and Wellness: BYTE addresses regional public health concerns such as youth obesity by promoting exercise, nutrition, and positive life habits.
- Cross-Border Interaction: BYTE facilitates bi-national collaboration so young people can develop relationships of trust, understanding and cooperation across the border.
- Border Awareness: BYTE highlights humane approaches to border issues to increase awareness and support for the border region.
The urban area of greater Nogales is historically a single culturally linked ethnolinguistic community that has been split by the US-Mexican border between the states of Arizona (US) and Sonora (Mexico). Nogales, Arizona and its sister city Nogales, Sonora are still commonly referred to as "Ambos Nogales"—meaning "both" or "together." Evolving US immigration policy has progressively increased security and enforcement in the last three decades and the result has been that the traditional cross-border movement and cultural exchange that characterized the region has been greatly suppressed.
Trade agreements such as NAFTA have driven growth in the region. But economic development has largely outpaced evolving infrastructure, leading to impoverished districts on both sides of the wall. Although separated by immense physical barriers, these communities share similar social and public health struggles that accompany marginal socioeconomic position. These include median income levels that are close to half that of state and national averages as well as higher than average rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, obesity, diabetes, and tuberculosis. Such problems are associated with poverty and a lack of resources and education. Acknowledging the correlation between socioeconomics and public health, the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission prioritized three of these—obesity, diabetes, and TB—as border health problems needing enhanced intervention.
BYTE was created through the unique cross-border collaboration between an American non-profit organization called the Border Community Alliance (BCA) and a Mexican Community Foundation called the Fundación Empresariado Sonorense (FESAC). These two agencies have compiled an outstanding record of public education and service programs and have won the respect of community leaders on both sides of the border for their objective, transparent, and visionary programs.The BCA/FESAC partnership has been active in southern Arizona and Mexican border communities for eight years and its goals are to promote and support the rich heritage and potential of the US/Mexico borderlands through education, research, cultural exchange, leadership development and advocacy for social welfare.
Specifically, BCA offers educational forums, summer student internships, and cross-border tours of the FESAC network—all meant to inform the public of the realities of US/Mexico border relations in order to dispel the fears and prejudices that underlie popular conception.
BYTE began as a BCA summer internship project in 2015 and continues as a BCA initiative, growing to develop its own partnerships within Arizona and Mexican grassroots networks. It remains closely tied to BCA, which helped construct the program and acts as its fiscal sponsor and 501 c(3).