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2015 June Update
SquashBusters has just wrapped up its 19th year of programming, and what a year it was. Highlights include our biggest and best Derby ever, college acceptances for all 10 of our graduating seniors, strong student performance on and off the squash court, and the introduction of 6th grade programming in Boston. In September, a new cohort of 7th graders will join the family in Boston and the Lawrence program will grow to serve students in 6th through 10th grade. None of this would be possible without our incredible network of supporters. We are beyond excited to celebrate our 20th anniversary next year!
13 Pros. 81 Amateurs. 16 Student Athletes. $1,070,580 raised in support of SquashBusters
We thought the 2014 Derby would be tough to top. But we did it.
The ninth annual MFS SquashBusters Derby held in May was one for the record books in terms of dollars raised, number of squash legends on the court, and fun had. Chris Spahr and the amazing team at the University Club hosted Friday’s doubles tournament, while the singles played on Saturday at the SquashBusters Youth Center. Eight teams made up of amateur players, world-class pros, and SquashBusters students competed in fundraising and squash to raise support for our kids and program.
Eighty-five fundraising players tapped into their networks and together secured nearly 1,000 donations and raised over $1,000,000 to support all 265 of our incredible SquashBusters students like Ema, who gave a heart-felt speech describing the program’s impact on his life. Because of the generosity of all the 2015 Derby contributers, Ema and his senior teammates are headed to college with a love for squash, for each other, and for the program that helped them get there.
The 2015 Derby posted up the most impressive lineup of pros to date with three former World No. 1s (Thierry Lincou, Peter Nicol, and David Palmer) and arguably the best hardball doubles and singles players of all time in Damien Mudge and Mark Talbott. But the squash talent wasn’t limited to the pros. This year’s tournament also saw Tim Brownell, the number one under-19 junior player in the country, and Carson Spahr, another rising squash star who recently won the national father/son tournament with his dad and the University Club’s own Chris Spahr.
Corporate support was generous and expansive this year. In addition to returning title sponsor, MFS Investment Management, the 2015 Derby was backed by the following significant sponsors: Steward Health Care System, Westfield Capital Management, Audax Group, Clough Capital Partners, Ernst & Young LLP, Folger Hill Asset Management, General Catalyst Partners, JP Morgan Securities, McCall & Almy, National Development & Charles River Realty Investors, Natixis Global Asset Management, Sapient Global Markets, State Street Corporation, Sun Life Financial, ThermoFisher Scientific, TOG Squash, Cardio High, STAG Industrial, and Windhaven Investment Management.
Other highlights include 13 year old Jack Winston as the youngest-ever player to compete in the SquashBusters Derby, partially prompting MFS CEO Rob Manning to remark to the crowd of 250+ spectators about the encouragement he felt seeing so many young people in attendance and learning the importance of giving back to the community. And give back, they did. Lucky Strike stood out as the only team whose players each met or exceeded the $5,000 give/get minimum, and seven-peat Derby winner Wallbanger not only took home the 2015 trophy, but also raised the most money as a team, shattering its goal and bringing in just over $383,000. The record fundraising total seen this year would not have been possible without the hard work of all the player-fundraisers, but none could top this year’s Secretariat Award winner, John Blasberg, who alone raised $82,250. In addition, we are once again so grateful to have had incredible cuisine put out by Ming Tsai and a festive after party hosted by Evan Deluty at Stella.
All of us here at SquashBusters are sincerely grateful for all the participants’ generosity and commitment to supporting our program and our kids. With this SquashBusters family, the possibilities are endless.
SquashBusters is excited to congratulate our 10 high school seniors, who have all graduated and will be matriculating to college in the fall. This amazing group has worked hard all year to complete 100’s of essays, interviews, and scholarships. Students will be attending a wide variety of colleges including Simmons College, Northeastern University, Providence College, Emmanuel College, and Boston University. We are so proud of all that they have accomplished and look forward to helping them continue to achieve success in college.
SquashBusters not only helps students get in to college, we make sure they can afford to go. The class of 2015 has earned more than $350,000 in grants and scholarships so far! These include prestigious awards such as Northeastern’s Valedictorian Scholarship, the Simmons Boston Scholarship, The Phillips Memorial Scholarship, and the Yawkey Scholarship. On average, 98% of their financial need was met through their financial aid awards and outside scholarships. Their debt burden when they graduate will be about $16,000 – less than half the national average. This success is a result of working closely with students and families to fill out financial aid paperwork, apply for scholarships, and make smart financial decisions about college.
Over the past seven years, SquashBusters has maintained a 99% college matriculation rate as a result of the intensive support we provide throughout the college application process. From SAT classes to summer college prep sessions, college visits, financial aid support, and one-on-one college mentors, SquashBusters gives each student the individualized attention they need to put their best foot forward in their applications and make good decisions about college.
Once students are in college, SquashBusters is committed to providing continued support until they graduate. We are thrilled to congratulate our 5 alumni who graduated from college this May including Randy Coplin from Connecticut College, Idabess Kirnon from Johnson and Wales University, Andrea Tran from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Hoai Tran from Northeastern University, and Yuleissy Ramirez from Harvard University.
SquashBusters Lawrence has grown into a strong team with a solid program culture at its foundation. In its third year, the Lawrence site grew to serve more than 60 students, with 6th – 8th graders hailing from our partner middle schools – the Emily G. Wetherbee School and Arlington Middle School – and the majority of our 9th graders attending Lawrence High School. Next year, our team will reach the critical mass where we will have two distinct programs, one for middle school and one for high school.
Thanks to our generous site partners, Phillips Academy and Brooks School, SquashBusters Lawrence was able to run 134 practices this year, accounting for hundreds of hours on-court and in the classroom. The Lawrence team was highly committed, boasting an overall attendance rate of 93%; the team’s hard work on court helped many players advance from novice to bronze or silver, and the team’s effort in the classroom helped 30 scholar-athletes earn honor roll.
In addition to daily practices led by Squash Coordinator, Barrett Takesian, SquashBusters Lawrence traveled to 20 squash competitions in 2014-2015, twice as many as last year. Tournaments and team matches took our team to Cross-Courts Natick, Nobles, Lawrence Academy, Nashoba Brooks, Northeastern, Bates, Bowdoin, St. Georges, Westminster School, Yale, Harvard, and New York City. Our most notable accolades came at the NUSEA Regional Tournaments. At Urban Team Regionals in October, SquashBusters Lawrence defeated StreetSquash, Squash Haven, and then CitySquash in the finals to win the BU13 division. In May, SquashBusters Lawrence sent 14 students to compete in the Urban Individual Regionals at Westminster School, where five of our students made it to the finals in their divisions, and three of the five took home first place. Twenty-nine students from our Lawrence program just returned from the NUSEA Urban Individuals tournament held at Williams and Amherst colleges, where six players finished in the semi-final, final, or winner’s circle of their respective draws.
In the classroom, SquashBusters Lawrence students worked hard all year with Academic Coordinator, Audrey Guerrero (SqB ’09), community volunteers, and student volunteers from Brooks and Phillips Academy. To bring the idea of “college” to life, SquashBusters visited six college campuses: Bates, Bowdoin, Maine College of Art, Salve Regina, Northeastern, and MIT. Our team also gave back to the community during our service trips to Cor Unum, The Food Project, Colonial Heights Nursing Home, and during our Earth Day trip, where we revitalized Misserville Park in Lawrence with the help of Groundwork Lawrence.
All of the tremendous work our students do on a daily basis is made possible thanks to our supporters and volunteers. In the second annual MashUp fundraiser, 475 donors contributed $200,000 to support SquashBusters Lawrence. Led by captain Jon Karlen, the Andover Academics reigned victorious once again. Fellow captains Henry White, Bruce Landay, and Ross Elkin are strategizing about how to recapture the Mash Cup in December 2015.
While our day-to-day programming continues, we are actively working to secure a permanent home for our program in Lawrence. SquashBusters is in serious discussions with the YMCA and other organizations in Lawrence about partnering to develop a facility, and we are deeply committed to finding a home that will sustain our Lawrence program for many years to come.
6th Grade Programming
This spring, SquashBusters Boston hosted a cohort of 6th graders from the Timilty School to get them hooked on squash. Sixth grader Eddie Calderon not only had perfect attendance, but also learned about grit and determination: “…it taught me to try my best and try new things. Even when it was hard, and I’d get frustrated with myself, I’d use that [frustration] to focus so I’d be more determined to get better. I didn’t miss any days because I wanted to get better and be able to play squash this summer with you.”
The five-week pilot program began when 70 sixth graders visited SquashBusters for an open house and were introduced to squash for the first time. Twenty students then signed on for five 90-minute Friday practices for hands-on instruction about the basics of the sport, and to experience the SquashBusters culture of teamwork, dedication, hard work, and gratitude. SQB alums Savannah Bell and Francisco Calderon led the practices, and were supported by SQB staff and alumni volunteers. Just as in regular SQB practices, the 6th graders participated in opening and closing circles, thanked their volunteers each day, and gave each other “Qilos” as recognition for exceptional displays of effort and teamwork during practice.
Being surrounded by SquashBusters alumni gave the 6th grade students a sense of the entire scope of the program, from first exposure all the way through program graduation and beyond. The five-week pilot culminated with all students playing each other in a squash tournament.
Eddie isn’t the only one excited to play more squash over the summer. Many of the participants from the pilot program have committed to join us for summer opportunities like the three-day “6th- graders-only session” in July or the more robust three-week “Summer Slam” in July/August – when 6th graders are invited to join their middle school peers who are already SQB participants. During both sessions, students will play squash, go on field trips, and bond with their teammates. Our goal is that they return to SquashBusters as 7th graders in September – more connected to the sport, to the program, and to each other.
SQB continues to deepen its partnership with the Timility School and has great expectations for its incoming SQB class of 2015-2016.