2013 January Update

SquashBusters has been moving at explosive speed, both and off the court. Tournaments, prep school matches, daily homework and SAT classes, college applications, our exciting expansion in Lawrence, alumni rejoining us as staff members- all of these things and more inject excitement, improvement, and achievement into our daily experience. In the end, this program is about building community and giving kids a chance to succeed in life. Our latest update shares with you just a few highlights of the past several months. Enjoy!

Urban Team Nationals

Jeremy Nathan

The growing urban squash movement descended upon Boston over the MLK weekend. SquashBusters and Harvard University co-hosted the event which united close to four hundred 12-18 year old boys and girls from Roxbury, Lawrence, Harlem, The Bronx, New Haven, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Denver and San Diego. The Urban Team Nationals has become one of the country’s largest junior squash competitions.

SquashBusters did more than play host. 78 of our middle and high school players competed in the event. Our competitors ranged from our sixth and seventh grade beginners to most of our sixteen 12th grade college -bound players. Boston and Lawrence students participated – a couple of our youngest teams comprised of players from each city. As many girls did battle as boys and, for those who did not compete, a good number came to the tournament to cheer on their teammates. Several of our teams posted third and fourth place finishes. Most noteworthy was a terrific upset win by our Boys Under 19 Team over perennial rival StreetSquash. Team leaders Kadeem Murell and Darwyn Nunez, playing in the top two slots, earned hard-fought match victories against StreetSquash’s #1 and #2 contestants, thereby locking in a 3-2 team win.

 The Urban Teams represents many positive things. First, it offers powerful visible proof of the size and scale of the national movement. There are now more than 1000 participants in the twelve programs. Second, seeing our students all together confirms how much they love their involvement and are growing as athletes, students and people. Third, our collective gathering, which happens twice every year, shines a bright light on SquashBusters, reminding the program, its Board, staff, supporters and students that we were the first one of our kind, the trail blazer, the organization and the city willing to take the risk on an untested concept. The massive national success of urban squash, something that today is so evident to all, is also a strong endorsement of SquashBusters and the impact we have been making in Boston, and now Lawrence, for almost twenty years.

Lawrence

SquashBusters Lawrence launched three months ago.  In late December, 150 supporters, volunteers, teachers, school administrators, families, and students gathered to officially welcome our first team of students at the Family Potluck Celebration.  The 34 sixth and seventh graders from the Arlington Middle School and Wetherbee School who make up our inaugural team were among 125 students who signed up to try out for the program in September.  Through consistent attendance and hard work (both on court and in the classroom), the 34 SquashBusters participants earned themselves spots on the team.

Lawrence GirlsAlready, 2013 has been an exciting year for the SquashBusters Lawrence team.  In early January, our students took two trips to Boston, where they toured Northeastern University and faced off against the SquashBusters Boston team in competitive matches.  Though the Boston team defeated both the Wetherbee and Arlington students, the real victories were the relationships that our Boston and Lawrence students began to develop during these visits.  The Lawrence team continued to forge new friendships with fellow urban squash students from around the country at the National Urban Team Championships in mid-January at Harvard University.  Our players faced difficult competition, but the tough matches did not discourage them.  In fact, according to Charlenny Perez-Peña, a SquashBusters sixth grader from the Wetherbee School, “My favorite part of the tournament was playing against people who’ve played squash for a long time, because it made me learn more and improve as a player.”  Overall, the weekend was a wonderful experience for our students.  As Courtney Breen, a teacher at the Arlington School who visited the tournament to cheer on SquashBusters, explained, “The kids were so excited to be representing SquashBusters, our school, and the city of Lawrence.  This tournament, and the weekend as a whole, was the high point of these students’ lives.  They met so many wonderful role models, participated in great matches, and walked away with an extreme gain in self-confidence in their abilities as players, people, and students.  The SquashBusters program is an amazing asset to both our school and the students involved.  We have noticed a huge change in the SquashBusters kids.  They are socially involved with peers, academically driven, and focused in class.”  Our team is already counting down to the next national urban squash tournament, which will take place this June at Williams College.

Alumni

SquashBusters is thrilled to welcome another alumna, Shanita Williams, to its staff. Shanita assumed the reigns of our Program and Administrative Coordinator position in October. In this capacity, she manages all donations and donor stewardship efforts, pays bills, and maintains the database. She also volunteers on court every Friday, coaching and mentoring many of our high school girls. Shanita graduated from SquashBusters in 2006, went on to study and play #1 on the Varsity Squash Team at Smith College where she graduated in 2010. She is currently pursuing her MBA at Simmons School of Management where she expects to graduate in Spring 2014.

Other alumni are also making the world a better place. José Rivera, SquashBusters 2007 and Bates College 2011, is in his second year at SquashBusters as our high school squash coordinator. Ana Maria Lopez, SquashBusters 2010 and a junior at Emmanuel College, works in the office part-time. Omar Corona, SquashBusters 2004, recently joined the ranks of the Cambridge Police Department, and Guillermo Moronta, SquashBusters 2001 and Bates College 2007, is an Associate Director of Admission, Math teacher and squash coach at the Belmont Hill School.

College Acceptances

Amy & ZoeWe are pleased to announce that two of the 16 SquashBusters seniors have finalized where they will attend college next year.  Amy Sanchez will attend Mt. Holyoke College and Zoe Russell will attend Bucknell University as a POSSE scholar.  To date, the other seniors have received acceptance letters from 18 other colleges, such as Howard University, Ithaca College, Lesley University, Providence College, Spelman College, and Suffolk University, and will continue to receive admission decisions throughout the spring. 

When these students matriculate to college next fall, they will grow the number of SquashBusters alumni in college to over 50 students!  These students attend colleges as close by as Northeastern University, to as far away as Oberlin College in Ohio or Johnson and Wales University in Florida, and have recently traveled to Spain, Russia, and Denmark to pursue their studies.  97% of students who graduate from the SquashBusters high school program matriculate to college – an enormous percentage compared to their BPS peers (only 64% enroll in college).  Additionally, 64% of SquashBusters students graduate from college, compared with 35.5% of BPS students.

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