Story submitted by Mark Price
On Sunday, February 3rd, at Rice University on Court 1, 7th grade student and rising tennis star Joey Urso annihilated his hopelessly over-matched former English teacher, Mark Price, and in the process helped raise over $4500.00 for abused and abandoned animals. This tennis event to help animals in Houston’s notorious Corridor of Cruelty area, a tragic landscape in East Houston known to be a hub of area dog-fighting and a dumping ground for unwanted animals, began as a no-homework challenge in English class at St. Mark’s Episcopal School a year ago. Mr. Urso and his English teacher, Mr. Price, talked about playing a tennis match at a local court, and on the line if Mr. Price lost was a week of no English homework.
Mr. Price left St. Mark’s last year to open a private reading and writing teaching practice in the West University area, J Mark Price Reading, LLC, where Joey Urso was a student is creative writing workshops. Mr. Price has long woven service and outreach work into his teaching, and, at the suggestion of Joey’s mother, Stacy, the match became about saving animals and planning or it went into high gear.
When the big day arrived, under tailor-made blue skies and in front of a loud and supportive crowd, Joey made quick work of Mr. Price, blanking him 6-0 in barrage of ferocious overhands and pinpoint serves. Donations at the gate, and at the concession and raffle ticket booths, totaled more than $4500.00 dollars. The proceeds were presented in a beautiful trophy cup on court after the match to Deborah Hoffman, founder and President of Corridor Rescue, the group that saves these animals, rehabilitates and fosters them, and finally places each in loving, forever homes. Mr. Price commented, “Joey is an outstanding young man, an excellent student who cares deeply about making a difference in the world, and a phenomenal athlete. Not only is he the best player I have ever faced on a tennis court, and not only did he raise $4500 on his tennis racquet for these animals, but he inspired all those watching in the stands, teaching everyone that it is possible to use one’s gifts to make a meaningful difference. I am extremely proud of him.”
Joey is one of the students who has been involved the past two years in Mr. Price’s poetry anthology project, which sees students write original poetry and fiction for an annual book, which the students then sell copies of to raise money for these animals. In the past three years the poetry anthology project has raised more than $40,000.00 for the animals in the Corridor, and Mr. Price says his students at J Mark Price Reading, LLC have many more inspiring projects ahead.