Princeton Carter’s serve on the tennis court has been clocked at 114 mph.
But the way the LaPlace native serves off the court is immeasurable.
It started four years ago during the summer as Carter was about to start his freshman year at Isidore Newman School.
He, along with his younger sister Kennedi, were in the car with their mother, riding by the bridge on Claiborne Avenue.
They took this route often, so seeing the homeless people under the bridge was nothing new to them.
But one day, Carter, 13 years old at the time, noticed a homeless man wearing military clothing.
“I said that can’t happen,” Carter recalled. “Especially in a country like this where we depend so much on our freedom. They fought for freedom, but they are not free to love. He wasn’t living. He was just surviving. That really hit me.”
Carter decided to do something about it.
Pam Carter gave her two kids some encouragement that day as they questioned her about how someone who had served his country could now all of a sudden be on a street corner begging from me.
“Y’all are just like everyone else if you don’t do anything,” she said. “I told them to come up with some ideas, we’ll create a website and come up with a plan and make it happen.”
So they brainstormed, going back and forth jotting down ideas on a sheet of paper.
Princeton Carter started a nonprofit group called My Brothers Keeper NOLA, whose mission is to “make the world a better place, one meal at a time.”
It began with him soliciting gift cards and donating them to military families.
Since its beginning, he has helped raise $30,000 in gift cards and donations.
That doesn’t include the clothes, shoes, books and toy drives he has helped by partnering with Volunteers of America.
But his charity work didn’t stop there.
His Dress for Success clothes drive helped give donations to the Covenant House.
Two years ago, he helped established Volunteers of America’s Youth Leadership Council, another group that helps with donations throughout the city.
Carter, who will graduate from Newman this week, plans to continue his community service efforts in Connecticut. He announced Wednesday that he will play his collegiate tennis at Wesleyan University.
His sister Kennedi plans to keep the efforts going in New Orleans, but also would like to start her own nonprofit to help high school girls in the city.
“Our parents always taught us that if there was a problem, you should try to solve it,” Kennedi said. “If you just sit back, it will just get worse. So why not do something if nobody else is. We just always have that drive.”
It was Kennedi who got her big brother involved in tennis. She was playing the sport first, when she was about 4 years old. Her big brother was playing everything else, from baseball to soccer to football. He decided to try tennis after seeing her play.
He stuck with it, becoming one of the state’s best in his age group. That athletic success shouldn’t come as a surprise. His mother played tennis in high school and his father, Jerome Carter was a former walk-on football player at LSU in the early 1980s.
Carter won three consecutive LHSAA Division IV singles state championships at Newman as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Rarely tested in 2A, he decided not to play as a senior, instead playing soccer for the first time since the seventh grade.
But his heart belongs to tennis, as could be seen by all the trophies on display at his signing ceremony at Final Fitness Gym in Harahan.
He has earned his share of awards for his off the court accomplishments, too.
In Feburary, he was presented Nickelodeon’s HALO (Helping And Leading Others) Award, which recognizes “real-life kids that are doing extraordinary things in their communities.” He will be recognized during an event Nickelodeon will televise in November.
That award comes with a $10,000 prize to go toward his education, which is a priority to the “A” student at Newman.
He admits it’s not always easy juggling sports, athletics and the numerous hours of community service.
“You just have to make sure your priorities are straight and know how to juggle it all,” he said.
In college, he will be studying to become a cardiologist.
And at the same time, he’ll continue to do two of the things dearest to his own heart: Serving … both on the court and off it.