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OC tennis player balances life, nets Ashe award

Wednesday, August 29, 2007  
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By Matt Patterson
The Oklahoman
August 29, 2007

Oklahoma Christian tennis player Jennifer Le has grown up to be everything her parents hoped.

Le recently won the NAIA Arthur Ashe Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award, given to those who excel not just in the classroom but in life. Le was feted at a luncheon in New York City last week, but its what got her there that matters most.

Balancing a 3.9 grade-point average and tennis, Le is active in Theta Theta Theta, a social service organization.

The senior loves visiting with residents at Tealridge retirement home. In her role as a freshman mentor, she helps new students adjust to college.

"It all gives me a great appreciation for life and how fast it goes," Le said.

"Being able to interact with people older than you and younger than you gives you a different outlook. They've lived in your shoes, and the younger ones are about to walk in your shoes."

The Putnam City North graduate had a fine example growing up. Her father, Le, and mother, Anh, came to the United States from war-torn Vietnam in 1975. Her father came over alone, then her mother arrived with her grandmother and six relatives. They had nothing in their pockets but hope in their hearts.

Le's parents met while attending college in Oklahoma City. Her father took classes at Francis Tuttle Vo-Tech and Oklahoma State-OKC while her mother studied accounting. Le's father eventually opened his own auto shop. He introduced her to tennis at age 12.

"Their work ethic is amazing," she said.

"They were on food stamps when they got here. They worked hard to get where they are. It's been an eye-opening experience. They were so poor. I have a greater appreciation for what they went through the older I get."

Le's tennis coach at Oklahoma Christian, Lisa Johnson, nominated her for the Arthur Ashe Award.

Le is a long way from the shy kid who could barely strike up a conversation with her high school tennis coach.

"Most kids her age don't go above and beyond," Johnson said.

"She does it constantly. She's always giving to someone else. I've known her for a long time, and she's always been that way."

Le's brother, Stephen, might be her biggest fan. The 19-year-old has autism and lives at home. He has been another inspiration in Jennfer's life.

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