Back in the Swing

Welcome home! That was how staff greeted our students as joy, laughter, music, and the unmistakable pop of a squash ball once again filled our facilities. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of our staff we found new ways to connect over the last 18 months, but there is no replacement for being together in person. Thank you to all of you who supported us through these difficult times. We are a stronger organization for having weathered the storm together. We remain watchful and diligent as the pandemic continues to evolve, but for now I hope you enjoy a glimpse into the first few months of our season.

BOSTON

This fall has been a season to celebrate as we welcomed 85 new and returning students back to the building after 18 long months of COVID twists and turns. From college visits and team trips to a return competition, it has been a season of discovery and renewal.

Our new middle school team jumped right in to a brand-new sport and a brand-new program. They explored Northeastern University’s campus with a student lead tour from our very own Vanel Joseph – SQB Class of 2019 – and they watched the highest level of collegiate squash as they attended the MIT vs. Trinity and Harvard vs. Dartmouth matches, giving them a glimpse of the power and potential of squash.

For our returning students, it was an opportunity to get back to programming as they knew it. Our seniors got a head start during their preseason post-secondary planning sessions. They worked diligently on their applications, personal statements, and financial aid paperwork, and we celebrated their hard work with a 12th grade trip to Spooky World. Not to be outdone, our juniors made sure they got their chance to celebrate their return with a team trip to see the Celtics defeat the Toronto Raptors at the TD Garden. Our 9th and 10th graders explored one of the city’s best colleges with a tour of Boston University that was led by SQB alum and current BU student, Pablo Rodriguez – SQB Boston Class of 2018. We also held our first varsity matches in nearly 2 years as our girls took on The Winsor School, and both the boys and girls varsity teams took on Nobles and Greenough.

As we wrap up the fall season, we are looking forward to deepening our connections and spending more time together. Our middle schoolers hosted their Family Potluck, and all students with excellent attendance (85% or higher) headed to Apex Entertainment for some bowling, laser tag, and much needed laughter. Our varsity boys will be on the road for a match against The Fessenden School, while both our boys and girls varsity teams will welcome Brookline High School to SQB. In the spirit of giving back everyone will participate in our first internal Goodwill donation tournament. Our middle schoolers will also be heading to Community Servings for an afternoon to serve home-cooked meals to those in need. It has been a great start to the year, and we are looking forward to all that lays ahead, especially our largest tournament of the year, the Squash and Education Alliance Team Nationals in January!

LAWRENCE

It’s been a busy fall at SquashBusters Lawrence! Students, families, and staff were thrilled to return to regular in-person programming following the challenges of last year. We have still had to be creative to find programming space but thanks to the generosity of local organizations we have been able to gather as a team and embrace our community. We have been lucky to partner with new local organizations to host our weekly practices – Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School, Cedardale Health and Fitness, our own office building at Island Street, and parks around the city. While these sites may lack squash courts, they have created opportunities for our students to learn new ways to stay active, have fun, and cross-train. Instead of squash, many practices now include juggling, pickleball, badminton, tennis, and (our students’ favorite) fitness!

Recently we’ve been fortunate to return to regular court usage at Brooks School, which in addition to more squash time has given us the space to run annual events like our Thanksgiving celebration: Gobble Games! Four teams of high schoolers competed in feast-themed challenges to capture the championship. The games were silly and fun, but more importantly they gave the higher schoolers the opportunity to gather as a full team for the first time in almost two years. The students also used this time to formally elect team captains for the 2021-2022 squash season – an important task before matches began in December! A huge thank you to Brooks for ensuring we have the space for these team moments this year.

Another remnant of last year’s program that has become a key component of SquashBusters Lawrence is the many trips the teams have taken around the state. Whether it is a bowling trip, a visit to a farm, or even just grabbing food after a late practice, students and staff have seized opportunities to bond and connect while off court. These have quickly become a favorite aspect of the program, and all our teams have grown closer because of the extra time together, especially on the bus! We’re excited for even more opportunities like these, and some long-awaited squash matches and tournaments, this winter.

PROVIDENCE

It’s official, SquashBusters Providence is back and is fully running in-person programming! From regular squash practices to enrichment and homework sessions, the kids are excited to be back in their second home. We have had a busy fall. Students have taken a college campus tour of Brown University and have done community service including a perennial favorite, making holiday cards for the Arbor Hill Assistant Living Facility. SQB’ers also traveled to Hope of Life, to clean their warehouse so that it is ready to ship food to malnourished children in Guatemala and they went to Roger Williams Botanical garden to repot plants.

Luis Morales, the Senior IT Analyst of Nautic Partners, LLC came to speak to our 8th graders about Information Technology (IT) and all the career possibilities in this field. He also spoke about the technological advances that we have seen throughout the years and students were able to agree and identify that technology is moving at a fast pace.

On the squash side our kids have joint practices once a week with the PVD squash students and the Moses Brown teams. During these practices they are coached by the PVD squash pro and SQB supporter, Arthur Gaskin. Students have had the chance to once again compete in tournaments, and our own Thiago Zabala won his first US Squash Bronze tournament, where he bested a field of talented local players. Ten students traveled to Chelsea Piers in New York City where they competed in a Squash and Education Alliance Regional Tournament, and battled against Capitol Squash, City Squash Bronx, City Squash Brooklyn, StreetSquash and Squash Haven.  It was a great day of squash and the boys and girls teams each finished fourth in their respective draws.

And, excitingly, Jesus Mateo-Diaz is in the process of applying for a full-scholarship to Moses Brown. We think he is a great candidate.

Looking ahead, our yearly fundraiser, The Rumble, takes place on Saturday January 22nd and will feature some world-class squash pros. And, we are prepping students for the Squash and Education Team Nationals in mid-January. A total of 25 SQB Providence students will join another 60 from SQB Boston and Lawrence to compete at this national event in Philadelphia at the new Specter center. Two years ago, almost immediately after this event, COVID turned all our lives upside down. Since then, our students have missed out on a lot. With this event officially back on, we are hopeful that things are slowly going back to normal, and our students are excited to compete, bond, relax together and enjoy a great weekend.

POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS

Fall 2021 has been a monumental season for the Post-Secondary department. This year, 171 students are receiving post-secondary access or support services, including 34 high school seniors, and 137 students working towards post-secondary degrees, certificates or engaged in full-time work. In September, 35 students matriculated to post-secondary opportunities, at colleges and universities such as John Hopkins University, Boston University, Northeastern University, UMASS Amherst and Lowell, and at apprenticeships for HVAC and real estate licensure courses. In addition, our 12th grade students have received early acceptances from MIT, Tufts, and Babson!

A student-led Peer Mentor initiative launched on three campuses, with upperclassmen meeting with, and mentoring, underclassmen. And, we launched the Lawrence Alumni Committee to work alongside the Boston Alumni Committee, organizing social events and opportunities for SQB graduates of each site to gather. The presidents of each alumni committee, Ravi Rao for Boston and Jiberly Sandoval for Lawrence, are also members of the Board of Directors, extending their support to program development and hiring amazing staff.

On the Career Services side, SquashBusters launched SQB Connect, an internal jobs board and mentoring platform, that connects post-secondary students and alumni to our outstanding network of supporters. Through SQB Connect, students are growing their networks and connecting with individuals for informational interviews, resume support and interview preparation, and applying to internships for summer 2022. We have hosted four career exploration panels to expose students to a variety of positions across different industries – thank you to the many MashUp players, and supporters across the squash community, including, but not limited to, JP Morais, Thierry Lincou, Amanda Sobhy, and Busani Xaba for sharing your expertise with us!

If you are not yet on SQB Connect and wish to join, please follow this link, then click “Sign up” in the top right hand corner!

THE 2021 MASHUP

Ending the year on a high note, we were thrilled to be back together in person after a virtual MashUp in 2020. More than 80 squash and paddle players and pros battled it out on the courts at the Snyder Center on the campus of Phillips Andover Academy, the North Andover Country Club and The Country Club on Sunday December 12th and raised over $400,000 of critical funds. (Click here to read more.)

On the squash courts, Captain Jon Karlen’s Andover Academics once again carried the day, as the “blues” ran out to big wins over both the Essex County Nicks in the semifinals and then the Merrimack Volley in the Finals.  Their pro, Kiwi Campbell Grayson, former PSA No. 24 and current Yale Assistant Coach, topped the table in the pro competition by defeating the Nicks’ Arthur Gaskin first and the Volley’s Adhitya Raghavan last.  Raghavan, a 2020 Princeton graduate and varsity standout, was a generous last-minute substitute for SQB favorite Timmy Brownell who fell out earlier in the week with a hamstring injury.  Perennial supporter Clinton Leeuw of South Africa rounded out the pro contingent and encountered his own injury with a strained knee during his 3rd place match with Gaskin.

The day on the squash courts began in a novel way by featuring Harvard’s top two varsity men, Victor Crouin and Marwan Tarek, in a first-to-10 point mini-match scored in honor of SQB Lawrence’s 10th anniversary this year.  The impressive Frenchman, now ranked No. 23 in the world while still a senior at Harvard, edged his Egyptian teammate 10-7.  Captain John Manning of the Lawrence Legion and Co-Captain Bill Paine of the Volley led the charge as team players, while Volley Co-Captain Bruce Landay and Nicks captain Henry White cheered mightily from the bleachers.

Two waves of paddle round-robin competition took place simultaneously at North Andover Country Club and The Country Club, with some of the game’s best pros joining 24 dedicated SQB supporters. Sunny skies and a brisk wind added some extra challenges to the games, with the Lawrence Legion just edging out the Andover Academics in overall victories.

During a closing Zoom ceremony SQB Lawrence student, Julissa Morales (SQB Lawrence 2022), and alumni, Waleed Khiyaty (SQB Lawrence 2020) and Vicky Flamenco (SQB Boston 2006), spoke movingly about what the program has meant to them and how the love, caring, steadfastness, and support has changed the trajectory of their lives.  The Andover Academics walked away with both the Golden Mill award for top team fundraising and the Krapels Cup, as tournament champions. We were honored to have the family of Ed Krapels once again join the event and remind us of the kindness and generosity that Ed bestowed on SQB.

More photos of the day can be found here and a video wrap-up here.

What a Year It’s Been!

From pods, masks, and social distancing to virtual programming, online tutoring, yoga, and pickleball, and through lots and lots and lots of COVID testing and “getting creative”, SquashBusters never shut down. We remained laser-focused on serving our students and their families. And while our traditional programming took a back-seat this year, we spent the weeks and months strengthening our bonds with each other and to our communities. SQB is stronger for having weathered this storm together. We are excited to take what we learned this year about determination, resourcefulness, imagination, and friendship into a new and even stronger chapter. Thank you to all who supported us in making this possible. We hope you enjoy a look back at what the year has brought.


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2021


Hats off to the SQB Class of 2021 Boston (L) and Lawrence (R)

Despite a senior year like no other, all 34 members of the Class of 2021 – 22 from SQB Boston and 12 from SQB Lawrence – graduated high school this June; 100% have secured meaningful post-secondary plans, including four-year and two-year colleges and universities, apprenticeships, and military service.

SquashBusters celebrated the hard work and accomplishments of the seniors with a trip to Cape Cod for the Boston students, and a bowling and dinner evening for the Lawrence seniors. Congratulations to all our graduates!


BOSTON


The Honor Roll Dinner, snow tubing, and horseback riding were a few of the ways
Boston staff kept our students engaged and connected. 

On June 16th and 17th SquashBusters Boston celebrated the end to a challenging yet rewarding year with our annual community gathering and award ceremony. The event certainly looked different from years past, but the energy and love felt by all, was if anything, stronger than ever. This year we committed to preserving a space for in-person community building as much and as often as was safely possible. At the same time, we expanded our virtual opportunities, so our entire community felt connected. We were able to build new types of relationships as we explored different activities in smaller groups and got creative with programming. Our students were able to share some hidden talents with their peers – cooking, yoga, meditation, gaming – and act as leaders and experts.

The introduction of more field trips and of student interest clubs were certainly highlights from this year. We had the opportunity to go skiing and snow tubing, horseback riding, hiking, and to amusement parks. Our graduating seniors even spent a fun-filled weekend together on Cape Cod just ahead graduation. As we necessarily took a pause from playing squash for much of the year, we played soccer, frisbee, basketball, tennis, and badminton to stay active. And when we were able to get back on court, the excitement and determination to train hard picked right back up, leading into our first ever SquashBusters Individual Tournament, where many students had their very first opportunity to compete.

And though, we faced challenges as a community, we came together to support one another in times of grief or uncertainty. Through it all, students cited the close contact with peers and staff and the opportunities for normalcy as an anchor and a bright light.


LAWRENCE


In Lawrence, it was all about the field trips – to the NE Aquarium, to Boston
to play squash, and to Skateland for some roller rink fun.

Without our typical access to local squash courts and classrooms, SquashBusters Lawrence took advantage of the circumstances to take students out of the city to deliver new and varied opportunities. This meant a focus on weekend trips around Massachusetts to places like the New England Aquarium, Skateland, Laster Tag, and Six Flags. Though this was a departure from our typical programming, the time spent traveling and participating in these new experiences strengthened the team and provided weekly highlights for our students during the isolation of the pandemic.

Not forgetting about improving their squash game, students kept their racquet skills sharp by picking up a range of new sports and spent significant time playing pickleball, badminton, and ping pong wherever we could find space. This, in addition to fitness and agility sessions to stay fit kept our athletes prepared for their eventual return to squash. Once court access became available at SquashBusters Boston, staff and students jumped at the opportunity and, despite epic battles against Boston rush hour traffic, traveled to the city multiple times per week to get precious time back on court.

During the times this year when in person programming wasn’t an option, we stayed connected virtually. In addition to weekly clubs focused on cooking, art, fitness, gaming and Asian culture, students could join post-secondary information sessions, resumé support, tutoring and more events all hosted on Zoom.

Despite the changes, SQB Lawrence’s focus remained on building community and supporting each other. The 2020-2021 program year provided opportunity to explore new interests and spend time together in different and exciting ways. While we’re hopeful we’ll be able to return to more “normal” programming next year, we’re excited to continue implementing the strongest elements of COVID programming to make SQB Lawrence even better!


PROVIDENCE

 
Students were able to keep their squash game strong,
serve their community, and stay fit.

Time flies when you are having fun, or so they say. 2020-2021 was difficult and for many of our students it felt like a long year, but at SquashBusters we provided our students amazing opportunities that helped the year fly by. When students were stuck at home with nothing to do, they looked forward to the Zoom calls and virtual get togethers. They took on yoga, learned different types of exercises, joined Q & A sessions with top professional squash players, learned how to cook, draw, paint… the list goes on and on.

Once infection rates reduced and vaccinations increased, even more doors were opened for our students. We kept them busy with squash practices, walks and a clean-up at a park in Providence, where they not only learned the importance of keeping their communities clean, they also enjoyed being able to hang out with their friends. Whether it was a trip to Newport or random bowling games, they mostly just missed the opportunity to be together in person.

Despite this challenging year, there were many bright spots. COVID forced us to think creatively and to appreciate one another. It made the SquashBusters Providence community and culture stronger. The students built meaningful relationships with their teammates and staff and appreciated each other as never before. The students did not let COVID hold them back; it made them stronger. Our first-ever class of high-schoolers have become leaders and role models to the younger students, and they have become more confident in themselves. Like most of us, COVID allowed our kids find out about themselves and what matters to them. One of the biggest takeaways was that they love SquashBusters. It is a place that they want to come to be with their friends, with the staff, and with our great volunteers. It is a space that they can call their second home.


POST-SECONDARY SUCCESS

Alumni get together for some friendly competition.

Each spring brings lots of celebration to the SquashBusters Post-Secondary Program, and this year is no different! This year, 10 SquashBusters-Boston students graduated from post-secondary opportunities: 7 students received their Bachelor’s degree, 2 students graduated with Associate’s degrees, and 1 student graduated from YearUp. Each student is soaring to new heights as they head off to graduate school or join the workforce across a variety of fields and industries, including education, finance, culinary arts, health policy, and criminal justice.

The Post-Secondary team worked hard this year to expand our service offerings and respond to the unique circumstances brought on by COVID, including allowing students access to classrooms, wi-fi, and quiet workspaces in Boston and Lawrence and court access in Boston. We also invested in our SQB Career Services to enhance employment outcomes for all SQB students and alumni. At each of the fundraising events – the MashUp, the Rumble and the Derby – we hosted career development workshops, which allowed our supporters to interact with students in new and impactful ways. In May, ten students participated in a 1-week intensive workshop on professional communications and skill building in preparation for their summer internships. Alums even got in a little squash (pictured above)!

We also launched SQB Connect, our new career, networking, and mentoring platform designed to connect SQB students and alumni to mentoring support and employment opportunities by leveraging the incredible power of the SQB network. In addition to facilitating 1:1 connections between students and users on the platform, the SQB Connect Jobs and Internships Board allows individuals in the SQB network to post opportunities that our students and alumni can easily apply to.

Thank you to the many volunteers, Career Coaches, and corporate partners who participated in a career workshop, provided summer internship opportunities to post-secondary students, and/or connected with a student or alumni to edit a resume or share information about their career path. We’re excited about the future of SQB Career Services and the Post-Secondary Program and we know none of this would be possible without your support and dedication.

 

 

 

SQB is Springing Forward

        

Dear Friends,

I had intended to kick off this newsletter with stories of joy, resilience, hope and triumph over adversity that we’ve experienced with our students and each other over the last few months. I wanted you to know that a quarter century into this work, I have learned that nothing can break the bond of SQB love that our staff and students share with each other. I have celebrated the extraordinary generosity of our Board and our supporters. And I am proud and motivated about the work SQB does every day to bring greater racial and economic justice to the world.

But, the killings in Atlanta and yesterday in Boulder, have over-taken these sentiments, and I find myself once again angry and saddened by the racism, injustice and pervasive gun violence in this country. We condemn both attacks in the strongest terms. While not explicit, it seems likely that in Atlanta the ugliness and hatred was directed at the AAPI community. We will fight for the members of the AAPI community, just as we strive to do every day for the BIPOC community, and we commit to show up, listen and learn from all marginalized communities in our on-going efforts to be anti-racist.

In the wake of events this past summer, SQB established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee comprised of staff, alumni and board members and charged with the task of recommending concrete, achievable and important steps SQB needs to take to improve as an organization. Today, this work seems more important than ever.

Very much related to DEI, SquashBusters has made miraculous progress in its ambitious goal to build our Lawrence Program a place-based home in the City of Lawrence, as part of a larger urban revitalization project with Lawrence Community Works that will include affordable housing, green space and community recreation.

The usual crowded van rides, boast-drive sessions, and chock-filled calendars of school matches, tournaments, and community service days, have been replaced by Zoom fitness classes and online tutoring, but SQB remains programmatically strong and focused. At every turn, our goal continues to be in-person interactions with our students and we’ve done this hundreds of times over this year in small group PODs and one-on-one get-togethers.  We’ve played squash, hiked mountains, skied, skated and snow-tubed, gone apple picking, enjoyed painting, pottery, yoga and much more. We’ve complemented all this with virtual cooking, fitness, social justice, gaming and art and Asian culture clubs. And I promise we haven’t missed a beat supporting our 34 seniors applying to college. Acceptances are pouring in from places like Bates, Trinity, and Johns Hopkins.

I’m so pleased to share this spring newsletter with you. For those who have been most affected by the shocking events in Atlanta and Boulder, please know that we are holding you in our hearts. To all of you, thank you for believing in the power of squash and education to change the world.


Hitting the Slopes

Winter in New England shouldn’t mean the end to our outdoor excursions, so during February school vacation week staff took 26 students from SquashBusters Boston to Nashoba Valley where they had a chance to spend the afternoon snow tubing or skiing. For many students this was their first time participating in either activity and there was great enthusiasm about the chance to try something new and spend time outdoors with their friends! Eleven students and three staff members participated in beginner ski lessons when we arrived so they could learn the ropes of moving, turning, stopping, and even falling with style. While we didn’t make it all the way up the mountain, we had a great time mastering the beginner hill and are hoping to plan a return trip for those who want to progress their new skills. Click here to see a video of our efforts.

Thanks to our generous supporters we were able to fully fund this activity for students and also ensure that everyone had the boots, hats, gloves, snow pants, and other equipment that they needed to have a safe and fun day. And given the ability to effectively social distance, wear masks, and stay outdoors for this trip, we also had the confidence of families to safely hold this event despite a surge in COVID cases at the time.  Our ability to be together was severely limited this winter, and this trip was a welcome break from virtual programming. We even had the generous support of a volunteer from Big City Mountaineers who continued to work with beginner skiers on their technique once the lesson portion of the day ended. Overall the trip was a resounding success and students are looking forward to their next chance to hit the slopes!

 


Business Leaders of Tomorrow

One of SquashBusters Lawrence’s most successful partnerships over the past few years has been with Junior Achievement of New England, a year-long entrepreneurship program that supports high school students through the process of building their own company from the ground up. While typically only a handful of SquashBusters students participate in any given year (you can read about the experience of Johsuar ’20 here), the pandemic created an opportunity for a team comprised exclusively of students from SquashBusters Lawrence. Guided by JA volunteers and staff, 10 SQB Lawrence high schoolers have spent the past several months working closely on weekly zoom meetings to create their own business. Julissa and Rosa, two participants from the SquashBusters Class of 2022, shared their experience starting their own company:

Junior Achievement of Northern New England is an organization that helps educate students about entrepreneurship. It gives us the opportunity to experience real world problems that might occur in a business. We are all interested in the business field and saw that this program was a great opportunity to further educate ourselves about the world of entrepreneurship. We are Hogar, a company that has produced comfortable hoodies from which 15% of the profits will be donated to Lazarus House, an organization in Lawrence that helps families struggling with food insecurity, poverty, and homelessness.

We would greatly appreciate it if you could support our cause, either through the purchase of one of our hoodies on our website here  or by spreading the word about Hogar. We only have six weeks and a limited amount of supplies, but with your support our company can grow and evolve, have more products to sell, and give back an even greater portion of the proceeds to our community. Help us with our mission, be a part of the Hogar family, and let’s make home where the heart is through our hoodies.


Calling All Chefs

(Taken before SQB went virtual.)

On January 4th SquashBusters made the difficult decision to return to primarily virtual programming for six weeks due to a surge in COVID cases, but our ever-resourceful staff quickly pivoted and created meaningful virtual club opportunities to keep the students busy and teach them about different topics. Students joined a club fair through Zoom, where they signed up for clubs that they were interested in.  They learned how to sketch and paint with the Art Club (view a virtual art show here) and satisfied their need for competition in the Gaming Club. In the Asian Culture Club they watched anime and made ramen from scratch and the Social Justice Club tackled difficult conversations and concluded with a great debate on capitalism vs. socialism.

Finally, we had wildly popular Cooking Club, where we taught the students how to cook meals and even had the students teach the staff.  Even though everyone started with different experiences (some had never used a stove or a knife before), by the end, all the students were cooking along and having great fun and great meals. Students made Chicken Alfredo and Broccoli Pasta which they were able to share with their families, and a new world of spices was introduced to many people. One student, Isabel, taught us all to make a family favorite, pastelitos. She even led a class for our donors and players in our annul fundraiser, the Rumble, where she taught everyone how to cook them just like her grandmother does. The recipe is below if you want to give it a try!

Pastelitos
Ingredients/Equipment
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Goya Discos Grande -found in freezer section (move from the freezer to the fridge a few hours before you start cooking)
  • 1 Pound of 80/20 ground beef
  • ½ onion (optional)
  • ½ green or red pepper (optional)
  • 2 Sazon Season packets
  • Goya Adobo Seasoning
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 Frying/saute pans
Preparation
  1. Chop half of the onions and half of the green or red peppers into dice-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan on medium heat and warm it up.
  3. Once olive oil is ready, add the ground beef to the pan and start to sauté.
  4. As beef is cooking, add the onions and peppers to the pan. Add two Sazon packets, salt, black pepper and adobo to taste.
  5. Remove the ground beef from the heat
  6. Fill Goya discs with ground beef mixture – add two spoon fills of ground beef in the center of the disc, fold the dough over to create a half circle and use a fork to seal the dough. Make sure the dough is closed tightly so the filling doesn’t seep out when you fry them.
  7. Add ¾ cup of vegetable oil to a sauté/frying pan on medium heat.
  8. Once the oil is hot, add the pastelitos to the pan, flip after a minute and fry until golden brown.
  9. Have a plate ready with napkins to take off the extra oil.
  10. ENJOY!!!!

Post-Secondary Stop-Outs (not Drop-Outs)

Myth: Students stop-out because of money or low GPAs.

Reality: Life balance and physical/mental health account for 55% of stop-outs.

The reasons for leaving post-secondary education and for returning are deeply personal and individual. This fact creates a great opportunity for a retention strategy- access to a person who can be an ongoing relational support system – or in SQB terms, our incredible post-secondary team. Corey, Mike, and Sally worked tirelessly with 9 students who had stopped-out this fall, getting them all re-enrolled for the spring semester. Five of them are returning full-time to their 4-year institutions, two to trade school, and two to a two-year program, one enrolling for the first time. So despite a pause in their education, all are hopefully on their way to success and self-sufficiency.


It’s Derby Season

More than 100 supporters, students, staff and professional squash players are saddling up to raise money for SQB and participate in our first ever virtual Derby. Starting on April 16 and lasting until May 1, players will complete challenges to earn points for their team. The harder the challenge, the more points you earn. And since no squash skills are requited this year, many players are choosing to make it a family affair.  Please visit the website to support your favorite players and follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see some spirited competition.

What a Derby It Was!

Another Successful Derby in the Books

     SquashBusters capped off its triumvirate of 2020-21 fundraisers with its traditional MFS Derby over the last two weeks of April. As with the Lawrence MashUp and the Providence Rumble, the Boston-based program’s 14th annual Derby was held virtually, but exceeded expectations nonetheless by raising more than $1.35m, thanks to the commitment and determination of more than 130 amateur player/fundraisers, and corporate support from Title Sponsor MFS Investments, Diamond Sponsors Intercontinental Real Estate and Westfield Capital Management, and Gold Sponsors Brown Brothers Harriman, Loomis, Sayles, & Co., and William O’Neil + Co, and many more. See a full list of our corporate sponsors here.
     Amateur fundraisers, students and staffers split into eight teams to compete for points based on challenges reflecting SquashBusters’ principals of College, Character and Health. Challenges ranged from cleaning closets and donating items to random acts of kindness to creating an SQB jingle. Competitors even had the chance to don their best Derby attire and ride a horse, and they certainly got creative! Some of the most meaningful challenges allowed players to work directly with SQB students on resume building and mock interviews and engage in a timely discussion on sport and racial equity. Three special “Havi Challenges” were dedicated to the Sack-Goldstein family.
     
     All the teams embraced their fundraising mandate and Unbridled, captained by Hope Prockop and Jeannie Blasberg, nipped the fundraising honors over John Nimick’s aptly named gaggle of T-Wrecks, whose top stallion Sandy Tierney earned the Secretariat Award for individual fundraising, bringing in over $72,000 singlehandedly. The Racqueteers, under the inspiring leadership of Captain Scott DeSantis, outpointed the field on the final day of May 1st to win the challenge race and earn the prestigious Fineberg Cup. A special group of eight participants completed all 22 challenges, including team captains DeSantis, Sam Kaplan, Jack and Simone Winston, and Chessin Gertler, the ageless Lenny Bernheimer, Tucker Jones, the Latimore Family and Eijk’s Knights team Pro Gary “All In” Waite & Family.
     Super Chef Ming Tsai took time once again to participate on all levels including a fun and delicious zoom session of kitchen wizardry. An outstanding group of pros dedicated their time and energy to this year’s Derby, with every one of them contributing race points, including Derby rookies and twin World Champions Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Laura Massaro (with Laura’s husband Danny pitching in at the last minute), local stars Sharon Bradey, Arthur Gaskin, Hameed Ahmed and Justin Singh and SquashBusters veterans Mike Ferreira, Clinton Leeuw, David Palmer and Gary Waite.
     The closing ceremonies on Derby Day, May 1st, kicked off with an incredible video highlighting some of the more than 1000 challenges that were completed. See the whole version here.  Afterward, three SquashBusters students spoke movingly about the positive changes in their lives as a result of SQB.  Six-year team member Owen Nash spoke about how SquashBusters inspired a non-athlete to gain a love of exercise and self-motivation.  Romilda Miranda, an eighth-grader at Boston Latin School took us through her journey of confidence-building and self-reliance. Finally, Micheka Fenelon, a freshman at Bowdoin College, captured everyone’s attention with her powerful goal setting, broad involvement in college community activities and career plans in medicine, which she hopes will enable her to give back to SquashBusters in the future. One participant summed up what many were feeling after these speeches, “Does anyone else feel like we’re watching the world change before our eyes?”
     As always, Founder and CEO Greg Zaff closed the Derby by talking about love. “SQB wouldn’t exist without you guys,” he told the 90-person strong final Zoom.

Fall 2020 at SQB Providence

During this difficult time, SQB has made it a priority to get our students out of the house, with the main goal of having fun. Our students have met in-person 1 to 2 times a week in their PODs and they focused on their academics and bonded with their peers. They practiced their squash game, did a lot of solo drills and different types of fitness/stretches to keep them healthy and in shape, joined yoga classes, went on long walks and enjoyed fresh smoothies.

To embrace the theme of Discovery and Exploration we added weekly trips for the students to get out and try things that many had never done before – they went rock climbing, hit their first strikes in bowling, taught staff how to make family dishes and more. They even visited Dave and Busters!

 

Changes in COVID requirements in Rhode Island did not slow our students down. When we couldn’t have these cool adventures outside of SQB, students got creative and turned the classrooms into a mini arcade or an art studio. They carved their first pumpkins and built and decorated their first gingerbread houses. At the end of Season 1 our students reflected on the fact that they were just happy to be out of the house, off their screens, and seeing staff and teammates face to face. And for the staff, their curiosity, laughter and smiles are the best gifts of all.

Fall 2020 at SQB Lawrence

Without access to our usual facilities, SquashBusters Lawrence fully bought into the Season 1 theme of Discovery and Exploration. In our pursuit to find meaningful ways to spend time together without normal classrooms or courts, we got creative and, in the process, discovered new activities and sports that we will undoubtedly continue to do long after things return to normal.

The middle school team kept active by transforming rented office space into anything from a badminton court to a ping-pong facility so students could get their fill of racquet sports and competition, even without squash. When the weather allowed, PODs were active outdoors, doing fitness circuits wherever they could find patches of grass in Lawrence. And, when they weren’t working up a sweat, the middle school team spent time exploring wellness in both body and mind, with yoga and meditation. Around the holidays, you could find the classroom dressed up for a Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas party to ensure that students had a chance to celebrate with friends.

 

 

The high school team also thought outside of the box to design SQB programming. Ninth grade boys spent weeks discussing the relationship between different games and sports and how to become a more effective team, while a POD of girls spent time researching causes close to their hearts and expressing their feelings on the subject through art. All this in-person programming was complimented by weekly mindfulness and meditation sessions as well as the introduction of a video game club.

Of course, even with all these fun and new activities, students dearly missed playing the sport they love – squash! Fortunately, we were able to secure weekend court access at Northeastern (thanks to the Boston Program!) and students happily spent up to 90 minutes on the bus (there AND back!) just to be able to solo hit on court or work with a ball machine. Though difficult, these late Friday nights and early Saturday mornings were totally worth it since it meant we could get back to working on our rails or volleys!

Despite the departure from our normal programming routine, this time has given us the opportunity to explore what it means to be part of SquashBusters and discover new interests and ways to engage with our teammates. We are looking forward to being even MORE creative and adaptive as we continue our “new normal” here at SQB Lawrence!

Fall 2020 at SQB Boston

This season at SQB Boston our theme of Discovery and Exploration led us down many exciting and thought-provoking paths. Students worked together in small PODs to pursue new interests and keep moving, while staying safe. Staying true to our core values, we have continued to focus on fitness, character, and community, with a twist. Students have explored new athletic opportunities, from yoga to boxing to kickball to ultimate Frisbee. They have taken advantage of the outdoors with hiking trips, sidewalk art, and paintball battles and we have had important conversations about health equity and access, leadership, nutrition, wellness, and social justice and PODs are creating PSAs about issues that are important to them, facilitating activities about leadership, and educating each other on topics they have explored. To wrap up Season 1, students created presentations of their accomplishments this season (BOASTS) that they shared with their peers at a virtual team celebration.

While more than half of our students have continued to participate in-person, we have also taken to Zoom and FaceTime to ensure our remote students stay connected. Academic success has remained a priority. Staff have worked individually with students to create “schoolwork from home plans” and we have moved our tutoring online as well, which has actually enabled us to offer this opportunity more widely. SQB supporters have led online cooking and yoga classes, and students have taught staff quite a bit about the online gaming world. Through it all, students have continued to keep their squash skills sharp with solo practices and creative new social distance drills, and our high school seniors have kept on track with their college applications, and two seniors received early acceptance to Bates College and Johns Hopkins University!

We also want to give a huge thank you to our partners, who have been amazing during this time. From Northeastern University to Boston Public Schools and everyone in between, everyone involved has worked collaboratively to support access to safe programming for students

None of us knew what to expect when this year started, but we’ve been impressed and heartened by our students enthusiasm for SQB and their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.

 

SQB Providence Weathers the Quarantine

A Note From Our Program Director

I hope that everyone is doing well and hanging in there during this difficult time. As you know, we have suspended programming at SQB Providence, but that does not mean we’ve stopped supporting our kids. As the realities of this crisis unfold, the staff and I will continue to think about the best way we can help our students and families.

Our staff has been busy doing check-in calls with every family to see how the kids are doing mentally and physically.  We made sure that all students were able to get Google Chromebooks provided by the school, hand-delivering ones to our students who were absent when they were distributed. We have also been working hard to connect families with resources such as free internet from Comcast and lunch and dinner from Providence Public Schools.  We have been sending workouts for students to encourage them to stay fit and have been developing different challenges to encourage them to stay active. Staff will continue to do these check-ins and provide academic and social-emotional support for the duration of the quarantine.

Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help our students and each other during this scary time. I will update you as the situation evolves. As always, we are so grateful for your continued support. I hope you enjoy these highlights from earlier this season. Please take care of yourselves and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

Best,

Rodney G.


SQB Providence’s First Class of Rising High School Students!

All of our 8th graders successfully completed high school applications at the end of February for a variety of high schools in Providence. Many of our students opted for charter schools as their preferred choice and beginning in early March, students began to receive news of where they were admitted. We are excited to share that all our 8th grade students have been accepted at their first or second choice school, including Classical High School, the top high school in the state of Rhode Island. We are looking forward to seeing our 8th graders transition into high school freshman in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.


Hanging Together During the Quarantine

SquashBusters Providence students are a lot of things – kind, hardworking, and resilient to name a few. During this time of distance programming, students are now developing their executive function skills and professionalism, as well. They have been tasked with joining our SquashBusters Google Classroom to stay updated on programming, including bi-weekly video conferencing hangouts, workouts with professional squash players, and virtual tutoring. Without the luxury of the routine they know well at our building, students have created emails and are learning to check them frequently, just like their coaches have to do! Though only in middle school, the skills they are practicing right now will be critical for their time management and academic success in the future. For now, it’s helping them stay in touch with the friendly faces of their squash family.


Health

In early March, 20 SQB Providence students traveled to Connecticut for the Squash and Education Alliance Urban Team Nationals. The tournament was held at Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall and our students had the opportunity to compete against players from all over the country. For some, it was their first trip outside Rhode Island. With participants from California to Detroit to Columbia to the Bronx, SQB students were exposed to different levels of squash and were able to meet lots and lots of new people.  Not only did they make new friends, our boys and girls team were able to compete at a high level. The Middle School Boys B team took 3rd in their division, beating MetroSquash from Chicago. They lost a very close match 3-2 , with the final individual match going to five games, but Squash Haven from Hartford, CT was able to pull off the win.  The Middle School Boys C team lost 3-2 to SquashWise from Baltimore and took second in their division.  The Girls A Team lost 3-2 in the semifinals against Squash Haven and after another close battle against CitySquash, they took fourth place in their division. Off the courts, our students loved the chance to bond with each other and with the staff, strengthen the team culture, and share new experiences.

SQB Lawrence Looks Back and Looks Forward

A Note From Our Program Director

SquashBusters Family,

We hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. On March 12th, with the health and safety of our students and community in mind, all three SquashBusters sites made the decision to shut down all programming. While we are not running our typical programming at Brooks and Phillips, our commitment to the students and families we work with has not diminished. At least twice every week we are in touch with every students, checking in on mental and physical health, and ensuring students are on top of schoolwork while at home. This, in addition to regular communication with families, teachers, and our community partners is helping us determine the best ways we can continue to serve our student population during this period of quarantine.

With the safety of our students and families foremost in our minds, we will continue to follow the recommendations of local and federal health authorities regarding a return to programming. Regardless of when we can return to normal programming, SquashBusters Lawrence will continue to dedicate our time and efforts to serving our 120 youth in the city in the best way we know how. For now, enjoy some highlights from the winter months.  We hope we’ll have more to add before too long.

Sincerely,

Andrés Burbank-Crump
Program Director, Lawrence


A Busy Summer to Look Forward To

For the past 5 years, the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) has been partnering with private schools and universities around the country to provide scholarships for intensive, high quality summer education programs. SEA serves 23 member programs, which together provide academic opportunity and health and wellness to over 2500 young people. This year SEA partnered with 13 private schools and universities to provide 60 scholarships for summer education. Five students from SQB Lawrence were nominated to compete for these scholarships. They spent long hours working on applications and crafting their essays, with no small amount of help from the SQB staff. Congratulations to the three Lawrence students who were granted scholarships –

Adrian Diaz , 9th grade, will be attending Summer@Brown at Brown University
Nuelly Silva, 10th grade, will be attending Andover Summer at Phillips Academy Andover
Orfi Cortes, 7th grade, will be attending Taft Summer School at the Taft School in Connecticut

We are so excited for them and these new opportunities!


SQB Lawrence Gives Back

Developing compassionate and engaged young citizens is the heart and soul of SquashBusters Lawrence. Each year we work hard to expose our students to community service projects and public service agencies with different missions, each striving to make a difference on an individual level and in the community at large. This year alone, SQB Lawrence high school students worked alongside thousands of fellow volunteers at the city’s annual Spicket River Cleanup, and they worked together to maintain the cleanliness of the Ferrous Park, Immigrant Place Park, and O’Neill Park.

During February break (which seems like a life-time ago), students had the opportunity to serve meals to those less fortunate at the city’s well-known meal center, Cor Unum. Cor Unum first opened its doors in September of 2006 with a mission to eliminate hunger every day. The agency has become admired by city residents. It successfully served over two million meals in its first decade, and is striving to beat that record amount in its second. Eager to be a part of the vision, SquashBusters students used their service opportunity to welcome guests, place meal orders, distribute food and beverages to tables, and wash and sanitize eating utensils. Keep it up SQB Lawrence!


A Slamming Squash Season

Until the quarantine, SQB students were fully immersed in the squash season with many, many opportunities! SQB Lawrence traveled to Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and all over Massachusetts to compete. The middle school team faced many tough competitors and some notable teams including SQB Boston, Portland Community Squash, Rectory, Eaglebrook, Lawrence Academy, and Nashoba Brooks. The team did not get the wins they were hoping for, but they enjoyed the travel, camaraderie, and competition. Students also took part in a number of US squash tournaments this year. A highlight was INFINITUM Bronze, where eighth-grader Maria Munoz finished second in a pool of 16 girls.

We were fortunate to be able to attend our biggest tournament of the year, the SEA Urban Team Nationals (UTN), which took place in March shortly before the quarantine began. UTN was hosted by Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall. SQB Lawrence brought 25 eager students, who joined more than 75 other SQB students from Boston and Providence. UTN was a great opportunity for our students to hang out with each other on and off court and staff welcomed the chance to to bring students together to foster team culture and team bonding.

The high school girls and boys competed in the A draw and each finished in the top 5. The middle school team competed against teams from across the country including, Connecticut, Chicago, New York, and Baltimore. Rounding out the weekend the middle school girls finished fourth in the competition and were excited to be one of the few SquashBusters teams to play in the Sunday playoffs. A huge thanks to SEA for providing this opportunity for our students to explore the world of squash, deepen their connections as a team, and make friends with other students from around the world.

 

SQB Boston Standing Strong

A Note From Our Program Director

Dear SquashBusters Family,

We hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. On March 12th, with the health and safety of our students and community in mind, all three SquashBusters sites made the decision to shut down all programming. While we are not running our typical programming at Northeastern, our commitment to the students and families we work with has not diminished. We are providing multiple opportunities each week for students to participate in remote team meetings, fitness opportunities, and other community building activities. We are also in regular communication with families, checking in on mental and physical health, as well as ensuring students are on top of schoolwork while at home. This, in addition to regular communication with teachers and other community partners is helping us determine the best ways we can continue to serve our student population during this period of quarantine.

With the safety of our students and families foremost in our minds, we will continue to follow the recommendations of local and federal health authorities regarding a return to programming. Regardless of when we can return to normal programming, SquashBusters Boston will continue to dedicate our time and efforts to serving our 145 youth in the city in the best way we know how. Enjoy some highlights from the winter months – we hope we’ll have more to add before too long.

Sincerely,

Rachel Koury
Program Director, Boston


Exciting Results for the Class of 2020

The SQB Boston seniors have been hard at work since June applying to a multitude of post-secondary opportunities. Students attended 8 weekly sessions last summer to work on the various pieces of the application process, and they have continued to meet on this topic twice a week since then. With the support of the college mentors – volunteers from within the SquashBusters network – students received support writing their personal statements, filling out financial aid paperwork, scheduling college visits, and ultimately submitting their applications. In addition to college applications, students also explored different post-secondary employment opportunities and scholarship opportunities.

This year SquashBusters’ twenty-one seniors submitted over 200 applications to more than 50 different colleges. To date they have already received over 90 acceptances. We are excited to announce that five students have already been accepted to and will enroll at Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, and Wesleyan University. We are very proud of the hard work that these students have put in both this year and during the entirety of their high school years, and we are thankful for all of the dedication that the SquashBusters community has exhibited helping these students throughout this process.


A Different Kind of Workout

A huge thank you to Louis Casiano SQB’13 and Elvis Lora, co-directors of Utopia Dance Company, who hosted a series of fun and exciting Salsa and Bachata dance classes for SQB students and parents earlier this winter. Everyone had a great night dancing Salsa, with 13 parents & students learning the basic steps. Students then participated in either two classes of Bachata or Salsa and treated us to a live performance at the end of our T-Week. In addition to dedicated squash players, we definitely have some part-time dancers in our midst. To continue our learning and encourage everyone to stay active, Utopia Dance Company has shared online classes so we can continue dancing together and moving forward. Enjoy some clips on our YouTube Channel  or click here if you are interested in trying out a virtual class !


Another Successful Squash Season

In mid-January, the SQB Boston boys’ and girls’ varsity teams traveled to Hartford, CT to play in the 2020 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships held at Trinity College and Wesleyan University.  After a few days of training with SQB coaches and Nick Taylor, a former professional player, hopes were high and our students were anxious to get the tournament started. The girls’ varsity team, which was originally seeded 13-16 in Division 2, showed an immense amount of grit and determination, coming away as the consolation winner.  This means that the girls are currently ranked 25th in the entire country!  The boys’ varsity team, which was seeded 13-16 in Division 3, also showed that they were not to be trifled with, having close 4-3 losses on three separate occasions.  The boys eventually finished 12th beating their original seed. This tournament provided a first opportunity for a number of students to compete in a national championship of this scale and to come together as a team in this way.

In early March, 55 SquashBusters Boston students competed in the 18th Urban Team Nationals in New Haven, CT. Hosted annually by Squash and Education Alliance (SEA), the tournament took place at Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall with 88 teams representing 20 urban squash programs from across the country. For many of our middle school students and some high school students, this tournament was their first overnight opportunity. Despite some nervous jitters during their first match, everyone managed their wins and losses with a calm and composed demeanor by the end of first game. Our students were also eager to display their squash skills by taking advantage of empty courts that were unused between matches, trying to squeeze in as many free plays with students from other programs as possible and forming new friendships. The weekend was a huge success overall. There were some big wins, including the national championship title that our Division A HS girls team were able to capture after a 3-2 nail-biting finals against SquashHaven. As always, everyone displayed strong sportsmanship on and off the courts and it was definitely a weekend to remember.