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SquashBusters Celebrates New Students, Improved Programming and A Third City
Year 22 shines especially bright for SquashBusters. We welcome 50 new 6th and 7th grade Boston and Lawrence students, elevate squash to official varsity status, and realize our Providence dream.
A New Class Embarks on the Journey
Fall at SquashBusters is an incredibly busy time, with gym visits, try-outs and college applications adding additional excitement to an already packed schedule. Introducing squash to hundreds of middle school students at our five partner schools, making the difficult decision of who will make the seventh-grade team, and putting the finishing touches on the seniors’ college essays – all of this activity means lots of hard work on the part of our students, staff, and of course, the committed volunteers who give their all to helping our students succeed.
That’s why it is so rewarding to see everyone come together each November to celebrate two huge milestones: the official welcome ceremony for the seventh-grade team, and the seniors celebrating the completion of their college essays by reading them aloud to the entire SQB community. This tradition started only one year ago, but has already become a highlight of the program year – the youngest and oldest students in the program joining hands to inspire each other and everyone around them.
Last Tuesday, students, coaches, academic coordinators and mentors gathered next to the squash courts to welcome the newest generation of SQB Boston students. A team of 30 seventh-graders made its way down a column of cheering high school students, eager to welcome them into their very own community. And just like that, the newest members of the SQB family began a six-year journey that will motivate, challenge, and reward them, in ways they can’t yet fully understand.
Shortly after, a hush fell over the room, and it was time to hear from those nearing the end of that journey: the 12th-graders. SQB College and Alumni Success Manager Mikhail Darlington, who has worked closely with each senior on their applications, introduced the speakers: Avi, Audrey, Ayra, Cynthia, Heyssis, Karyme, Tina, and Toni. The crowd was quiet and attentive – the seventh graders especially rapt as they watched students who had been in their shoes just a handful of years ago. Each senior bravely shared intimate stories about personal challenges they’ve faced and courageous steps they’ve taken, their big dreams to change the world, and their excitement and fear about the unknown.
“In squash, if you aren’t willing to go for every point, you won’t have a chance of winning,” Karyme shared from her essay. “In life, if you don’t take risks and challenge yourself, then you won’t achieve the things you truly want. I know college will bring new challenges, but I’m certain that the lessons I’ve learned from squash will continue to motivate me and guide me to uphold myself to everything I know I can achieve.”
With such great role models before them, we know the seventh grade class will be inspired to work hard, dig deep and surpass their own expectations. And before we know it, these same seventh-graders – the class of 2023 – will be reading their essays to a new class of SquashBusters students. We are so grateful for special occasions like this, that bring us together and demonstrate the love, support and commitment of this community.
No, this isn’t the start of a joke – it was the start of the second annual SquashBusters Breakfast with Champions! Fifty guests from all corners of SQB convened over breakfast to discuss concrete ways we can all contribute toward building a strong and hopeful community. Kicked off by a welcome from SQB alum and current SQB Board member Kadineyse Paz, guests had a chance to meet SquashBusters’ newest leader, Caitlin Barrett, at the helm of SquashBusters Providence, and hear a State of the Program update by all three of our incredible program leaders. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans closed out the morning with remarks about the importance of creating strong, safe spaces both within SquashBusters and in the community at large.
In addition to the esteemed police commissioner, in attendance were some of SquashBusters’ biggest stakeholders: SQB Advisory Council members, school and community partners from Boston and Lawrence, members of the Boston Parent Committee, and SQB staff. Notable guests included former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Winston Flowers’ Simone Winston, Squash and Education Alliance (formerly known as the National Urban Squash and Education Association) Board Chair Amrit Kanwal, and several members of SQB’s Board of Directors, including Chair John Blasberg, David Antonelli, Meg Campbell, Juma Crawford, David Drubner and Philomena Mantella.
The real work of the morning occurred at each table, where guests talked in small groups about the big issues that impact youth: safety, positive relationships, and health. Parents spoke of SQB’s place in their lives as a safe haven for their kids; staff and supporters discussed strategies for improving both the emotional and physical health of our students; and Board members and alumni shared stories about role models who have impacted their lives. We are so thankful for each and every one of our Champions for sharing their time, insight, and personal experiences and for helping to improve the lives of SQB’s 350 students.
SquashBusters Providence will officially open our doors on December 9 at a formal dedication of the brand-new, twelve-court, two-classroom Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center. In the years to come, hundreds of Providence young people will walk through those doors and have their lives forever changed, thanks to our partnership with Moses Brown School.
SQB has already made its home in the Providence community, forming its first official partnership with DelSesto Middle School. SQB staff spent several weeks in November dropping in on gym classes at the school, introducing the sport to hundreds of students. Once the building is open, interested students will start trying out for the first-ever sixth grade team.
It’s been five years since SquashBusters first hatched its plans for expansion to Providence, and it is hard to believe that our home is built and programming set to begin. The dedication ceremony on December 9 will recognize all of the generous donors who have helped make this project possible, most notably SQB Board Member and Providence Leadership Council Chair Habib Gorgi, whose leadership and investment in the project have been instrumental. Other major supporters include George and Carrie Bell, Tench and Simone Coxe, Digger and Susan Donahue, Bill and Jacalyn Egan, The Esselen family, the Gertler Clark family, the Haldeman family, Barbara and Amos Hostetter, Douglas Jacobs, George Kellner, the Lewis Family Foundation, the Lavine family, the Manice family, Ed Mank, the Muggia Family, Don and Susan Mykrantz, Andy Neher, Sandy and Jill Spaulding, and Steve Woodsum and Anne Lovett.
The facility, which sits Moses Brown’s campus, will be shared by SquashBusters and Moses Brown. The space will also be home to the Nicol Squash Club, which will be directed by former World Number 1 Peter Nicol and offer memberships, lessons, league play, and his signature junior coaching program, with five-time Irish national champion Arthur Gaskin serving as the resident pro.
“We are so excited to launch this program and bring urban squash to the city of Providence,” said Caitlin Barrett, SQB Providence Executive Director. “SquashBusters is so grateful for the opportunity to bring new resources and opportunities to Providence young people. Thanks to partners like Moses Brown and Nicol Squash Club, Providence residents from different backgrounds and circumstances will be united by the game of squash.”
For the first time ever, SquashBusters Boston will represent Boston Public Schools this year as a varsity high school squash team, thanks to an official sanction by BPS Athletic Director Avery Esdaile.
As a varsity high school team, SQB Boston will be officially recognized by U.S. Squash. The team will be eligible to attend the U.S. High School Team Championships, which will take place February 2-4 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. SquashBusters will be the second urban squash team to join the varsity high school ranks, after Squash Haven became a varsity team last year.
The varsity team has a packed schedule ahead of them it, with its first match at Concord Academy this Friday, December 1. Other upcoming matches include
Saturday, December 2: SquashBusters @ St. Mark’s School
Saturday, December 9: SquashBusters @ Moses Brown
Wednesday, January 10: SquashBusters @ Pomfret School
Tuesday, January 16: Brookline High School @ SquashBusters
Wednesday, January 17: SquashBusters @ Middlesex School
“It’s incredibly exciting for SquashBusters to join the ranks of some of the most elite high school squash programs in the country as an official varsity team,” said High School Squash Coordinator Guy Davidson. “This will open so many doors for our students, allowing them to take their performance to the next level and improve their prospects of playing college squash.”
This is another huge step in SQB’s ongoing efforts to provide students who want to play college squash with even more opportunities to improve their skills in the game. For the third year in a row, SQB Boston students have the opportunity to be paired with generous professional and amateur squash mentors, who meet with them 2-3 times per month to practice and share advice. Last year, we introduced an Elite Training Squad, an early-morning Saturday practice open to students who demonstrate exceptional commitment to squash. To empower our female students, SQB Boston also created Female Athletes Stick Together (F.A.S.T.), a student leadership group that plans and hosts events like all-girls practices and fitness classes with partners Recycle Studio and Cardio High.
Since 1996, SquashBusters has seen more than 30 program graduates go on to play college squash. Two recent graduates from the class of 2017, Jennifer Mbah at Mount Holyoke College and Kira Tejeda at Hobart & William Smith Colleges, are standouts on their varsity teams – both currently undefeated. In addition, Ravi Rao has had a strong start on Bryant University’s club team. We are so proud to see them succeed on their college courts, and inspire current SQB students to follow in their footsteps.