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SquashBusters Shines On and Off Court
Halfway through the 2017-2018 program year, SquashBusters keeps going and growing. A brand-new team of Providence sixth-graders signs on, the Posse Foundation selects an SQB senior for the third year in a row, and Boston's varsity team heads down to Philly for their first-ever high school nationals. Meanwhile, the Derby's just around the corner!
Providence Students Join the SQB Family
It’s been a busy last few months in Providence, highlighted by the official dedication of the Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center on the campus of Moses Brown School. This happened on Saturday, December 9, with close to 250 people in attendance despite the wintry weather. It was a great celebration of the unique partnership between SquashBusters, Moses Brown, and the Nicol Squash Club, along with the deep investments made by the Gorgi family and so many other supporters.
Since its opening, the 19,000 square foot Gorgi Center has become a hub of community squash in the greater Providence area. In addition to our work at SquashBusters, the Moses Brown squash teams have tripled in size and Nicol Squash Club already has over 150 members, with more signing up every day. Moses Brown will host the New England regional tournament for the boys B level in late February and Nicol Squash Club will be the site of the Rhode Island Squash Finals in early April.
On the programming side of things, our relationship with our partner site, the 1,000-student DelSesto Middle School, continues to deepen. Principal Arzinia Gill and her team of teachers and administrators have smoothed our entry into the school community, and we are looking forward to working alongside them to promote the success of our students on and off the court. SquashBusters staff introduced the sport of squash to 330 students during visits to PE classes in November, and over 50 kids have visited the building over the course of the 10-week tryout process.
We have also seen a massive growth in volunteers for the program; between local community members, student-athletes from the Brown University squash teams, SquashBusters Boston alumni who are attending college in Providence, and Moses Brown students and teachers, we have built a strong base of academic tutors and squash coaches for our middle schoolers. We are also piloting a reading buddies program with 8th grade members of the Moses Brown Service Club.
The rest of the spring promises to be full of many more firsts: the team’s first competitive matches, college tours, team trips, and community service projects. We continue to build a base of support in Providence, led by our local Leadership Council, and we are grateful for all the support and love that we receive every day from the extended SquashBusters community. We hope you’ll come visit us in our new home!
For the third year in a row, a SquashBusters senior has been the recipient of a coveted Posse Foundation Scholarship. Yanjing Huang, (SQB Boston ’18) was recently selected for this incredible opportunity. She will be attending Bucknell University on a full scholarship in fall 2018.
The Posse selection process is a long and competitive one. SquashBusters nominates about ten students each year for the opportunity, and the nominated students must be invited to apply for the scholarship. Based on their applications, a number of students move on to participate in group interviews with other Boston Public School students, which, after several rounds, narrows the pool down to a “Posse” – a diverse group of 30-40 students who receive four-year, full-tuition scholarships to attend one of Posse’s partner colleges and universities. Each Posse is enrolled in the same school, and Posse scholars are available to provide support for each other and hold each other accountable.
“My Posse scholarship wouldn’t have been possible without SQB and the support I received from the staff,” said Yanjing. “To me, SQB is not only a place to learn and play squash but a place where I’ve learned how to improve myself and push myself to the limit – something I believe will help me no matter where I go.”
SQB alumni Alex Drumm and Princess Ojukwu are current Posse Scholars. Alex, who graduated in 2016, attends Denison University in Granville, OH; and Princess, a member of the class of 2017, attends Union College in Schenectady, NY. Past Scholars include Ronald German, who graduated from Hamilton College in 2013, Kadineyse Paz (née Ramiz), who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2014, and Zoe Russell, who graduated from Bucknell in 2017.
“A Posse scholarship is really a win-win,” said Mikhail Darlington, College and Alumni Success Manager for SquashBusters Boston. “It opens up the door to some really great schools that will challenge our students academically and prepare them for long-term success, without saddling them with significant debt.”
Yanjing has already started bonding with her Posse in pre-collegiate training, which includes workshops on cross-cultural communication, leadership and academic excellence. “It’s a very diverse group, and I have already learned a lot from them,” she said. Once school starts, she’ll also be connected to on-campus mentors and support staff, as well as internship and career development opportunities.
For Mikhail, Yanjing’s achievement was no surprise. “What’s really impressive about Yanjing is that she’s able to balance so many things that are important to her,” said Mikhail. “On top of being at SquashBusters 3-5 days per week, she’s incredibly dedicated to her schoolwork, and she’s very involved with her community in Chinatown. She really puts 100% into everything she does.”
The Posse Foundation has identified, recruited and trained 8,480 public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential to become Posse Scholars. Since 1989, these students – many of whom might have been overlooked by traditional college selection processes – have been receiving four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner institutions of higher education. Most important, Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90% and make a visible difference on campus and throughout their professional careers.
With the MashUp trophies handed out, our sights are now set on the 12th running of the MFS SquashBusters Derby, slated for Friday and Saturday May 4 and 5. Each year, the unofficial start of Derby season kicks off with a Captains Dinner hosted by SQB Board Chair John Blasberg and his wife and Derby co-Chair Jeannie. As in the past, this year’s dinner brought captains together for food, planning, and spirited banter as players prepare to compete on the court and off in squash and in fundraising.
John and Jeannie, captains of Salubrious and Unbridled, respectively, were joined by captains of all eight Derby teams, including some new faces. Tucker Hamlin joins Jamie Fagan and Ming Tsai to lead True Blue. A recent college grad from Hamilton College, Tucker was a high school Derby standout, raising more than $25,000 in the two years that he played. Also new to the Captains table is 2-time Derby player and master fundraiser, Sam Kaplan, who joins Jeff Harper in taking the reins for Churchill Downey. Rounding out the leadership for all eight Derby teams are returning captains Kate Nimick (Unbridled), Charlie Humber, Jon Hyett and Amrit Kanwal (Wallbanger), Simone Winston (Salubrious), Greg Jannetta (Lucky Strike), Ralph James and Chessin Gertler (Eijk’s Knights), and George Bell and Sandy Tierney (Derby Worthy).
New developments for 2018 include the addition of a fourth doubles flight, growing each team by 2 players, and the revival of the pro/am flight, which brings 8 powerhouse doubles pros on board to round out the roster for each team. Team Salubrious has also made the strategic shift to fill each of its singles slots with junior players in an effort to unseat 9-time Derby champion team Wallbanger. Stay tuned to see if the strategy pays off!
With last year’s event raising a record $1.3M for SQB, we hope to hit that mark again in 2018. Several corporate sponsors have already signed on, including MFS Investment Management, Westfield Capital Management, Intercontinental Real Estate, William O’Neil + Co., State Street, Winston Flowers, and Ernst & Young, and we look forward to welcoming the 80 amateur players, 16 pros, 16 Junior Stakes players and 32 SquashBusters students who will take to the courts in support and celebration of SquashBusters.
Fundraising kicks off on March 1 with the launch of the event website. Start polishing that saddle and get out your finest Derby hat, and get ready to celebrate with SQB at the University Club of Boston on Friday, May 4 and at SquashBusters on Saturday, May 5.
The first weekend of February, SquashBusters Boston’s high school varsity team became the first team ever to represent Boston Public Schools at a national squash tournament.
Just two weeks after competing in another national competition, the Squash and Education Alliance’s Urban Team Nationals in New York City, sixteen SQB Boston students traveled to Philadelphia to compete in the 2018 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships, representing the district’s Men’s and Women’s varsity teams.
High school nationals is the worlds largest squash tournament, bringing together more than 1,300 junior players from 180 teams across the country. This is SquashBusters’ first year participating in the competition, which was made possible by an official sanction from the Boston Public Schools athletic department recognizing SquashBusters as a varsity high school team.
The Men’s team lost in the first round, succumbing in a close match to St. Christopher’s from Richmond, VA. The Women’s team won their first match over St. Andrew’s from Middletown, DE, losing in the second round to The Westminster School of Atlanta, GA.
“Having a team compete in high school nationals has been a SquashBusters dream since we expanded the program to high school students in 2003,” said Greg Zaff, SquashBusters Founder and CEO. “It’s incredibly exciting to see this dream come to reality, thanks to the leadership of our Boston squash staff and the determination and competitive drive of our students.”
To see the full results for the tournament, see the U.S. Squash website.