Winter Doesn’t Slow Down SQB

SquashBusters 2019 MFS Derby


Join us at the University Club on May 3rd and SquashBusters on May 4th
to watch some great squash for a great cause.
To learn more or support the event, click HERE.

A Historic Squash Season for SQB Boston

While our teams exhibited strong play throughout the season, it was clear both the boys and girls teams saved their best performances for the biggest competitions in high school and urban squash.

High School Team Championships – In early February SquashBusters traveled to Hartford, CT to compete in the High School Squash Team Championships as the representatives of Boston Public Schools.  There were 8 separate boys’ divisions and 6 separate girls’ divisions comprised of more than 200 teams from across the country, making it the world’s largest squash tournament.  Our strong regular seasons (girls 7-2, boys 8-1) earned our girls team a place in Division 3, and our boys team a high seed in Division 4.

Our girls began the weekend with a convincing 6-1 victory over Blair Academy (NJ). Despite falling 4-3 to two seed Westminster School (CT) the next morning in a tightly contested battle, the team recovered quickly and managed to take a 5-2 decision over Episcopal HS (PA) that evening, putting them in the 5th place match against traditional powerhouse Shipley School (PA).  Our girls eked out an intense 4-3 victory over Shipley, placing them 5th in Division 3 and 37th in the country!

Our boys team started the weekend similarly to the girls – with an impressive 6-1 victory over New Haven Public Schools (CT) on Friday.  A second round matchup with Tower Hill School (DE) proved far more testing.  Tied 3-3, Josiah Bennett pulled out the deciding fourth victory to send the team into the semifinals against Westminster School (GA) on Saturday evening.  Our boys once again edged out a close match, taking a 5-2 decision and securing a spot in the finals against Loomis Chaffee School (CT).  The finals had a different feel, as our boys clinched the victory early, and cruised to a 6-1 victory and a Division 4 championship!

Urban Team Nationals –  Next up, the 16th edition of Urban Team Nationals at Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall, hosted by the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA). Sixteen SEA member programs and 2 international affiliates comprised 14 separate elementary school, middle school, and high school draws.  SquashBusters sent 18 teams composed of 90 Boston, Lawrence, and Providence students to New Haven for 3 intense and fun-filled days of squash.

Entering the tournament, a SquashBusters team had not won an A-division title at Urban Team Nationals since 2016.  However, both the top Boys and Girls high school teams had hopes of changing that, as the girls team received the top seed and the boys were seeded third in the A-draw.

The boys took a decisive 4-1 decision in the first round against SquashDrive (Oakland, CA) before falling in a 3-2 thriller in the semifinal to eventual champion StreetSquash.  The boys rebounded to take 3rd place with a 3-2 victory over SquashSmarts (Philadelphia, PA) the next day.

The top girls team marched to the finals with a 5-0 first-round win and a 4-1 semifinal victory over CitySquash (NY).  This set them up to play StreetSquash in the finals, and the girls pulled through with a 3-2 victory to clinch SQB’s first A-division title since 2016!

SquashBusters’ other high school teams also experienced significant success.  The high school Girls II team won the A-division consolation, and the Girls III team took the B-division title.  The high school Boys II team won the B-division, and the Boys IV team took third in the C-division.

For the majority of students on SquashBusters’ middle school teams, this past weekend marked their first national tournament.  Still, they competed well against their often more-experienced counterparts.  The top boys and girls teams finished seventh in the Middle School A-division, while the Boys III and Girls III teams both finished third in the Middle School C-division.

Beyond success on the court, all the teams represented SquashBusters incredibly well.  Many other teams and spectators commented on our players’ strong sportsmanship and attitude.  And Joelangie Arias Soto and Marangela James took home the top prizes in the middle school and high school divisions of SEA’s annual academic contest. It has been a season to remember, and one of which our program is exceedingly proud.

SquashBusters Lawrence Gets a Permanent Home

A Schematic Rendering by Stack + Co. of the
New SquashBusters Lawrence at Merrimack College

SquashBusters has entered into a formal partnership with Merrimack College to build a rent/maintenance-free facility on the school’s campus. The 16,000 square foot facility will contain eight squash courts, three classrooms, a family resource and college counseling center, locker rooms and staff offices, and cost approximately $4.75 million. New Balance has committed a $2.5 million lead investment to name the facility.

The benefits to partnering with Merrimack College are numerous. Merrimack has agreed to donate the land free of charge, operate the facility at its expense, and assist SquashBusters with transportation. Additionally, Merrimack students will volunteer daily, SquashBusters staff may take graduate courses at discounted rates, and our qualified students will stand an excellent chance of gaining admission and financial assistance. Read Merrimack’s announcement to their community here.

SquashBusters enjoys similar partnerships with Northeastern in Boston and Moses Brown School in Providence, R.I. Both have enabled the program to serve more students, increase program dosage, host junior tournaments, and build a deeper connection to the community. We look forward to the programmatic, educational, and financial benefits of this partnership for years to come.

SquashBusters Runs the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon Team
Gets Ready for a Training Run with the SQB Team

When the starting gun goes off for the 123rd Boston Marathon on April 15, SquashBusters will have a 16-person team of athletes joining the 30,000+ runners on their trek from Hopkinton to Boston – a 26.2 mile journey that began many months and many miles ago.  Eight men and eight women have committed to support SquashBusters through a months-long challenge of grueling physical preparation and tireless fundraising to reach their pledged goals of collectively raising over $100,000.

The 16 teammates primarily hail from Massachusetts, but include runners from as far away as Tennessee, Alabama and California.  They range in age from 21 to 57 and include marathon rookies and veterans alike.  All of them feel a passion for or connection to the SquashBusters mission, and all of them have dedicated themselves to putting in hundreds of miles and hours as they work tirelessly towards their goals.  To meet our athletes or support their efforts, check out the SQB Marathon Team website on Crowd Rise. Be on the lookout for our for blue and white SquashBusters singlets and cheer them on along the course!

SquashBusters is deeply grateful not only to these 16 runners, but also to the Boston Athletic Association for this incredible opportunity to raise significant funds that will support our programs in providing life-changing opportunities to our students.  Since the Boston Marathon Charity Program officially launched in 1989, hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised for nonprofits across Massachusetts and SquashBusters is thrilled to be part of this program in 2019.

The Leaders of Tomorrow

The 2017-2018 SquashBusters
Student Ambassadors

The SquashBusters Student Ambassador Program is a leadership initiative that is at the core of the SquashBusters mission. Composed of 14 high school students, the group meets bi-weekly to discuss the status of the program through their own eyes, plan internal and external events, and provide feedback and suggestions to enhance their experience.

Through their involvement with the Ambassador Program, students learn and practice valuable leadership skills. For instance, the Ambassadors recently led a two-hour event for more than 30 middle school students from three separate Boys and Girls Clubs in Boston.  The SquashBusters students created goals to define what a successful event would look like, planned the run-of-show, divided roles, and practiced and rehearsed over multiple sessions and over multiple days on top of their core commitment to the program. SquashBusters staff were present to supervise, but the Ambassadors led the event flawlessly, greeting the visitors as they arrived, teaching squash, leading relay races, charades and other events, and showing the Boys and Girls Club students what it takes to be a member of a SquashBusters team.

The Ambassadors also play a crucial roles in the SQB program-year kick-off event, the Derby, and seasonal award ceremonies, where they select and celebrate a teammate who exemplifies the I-CARE values that all SquashBusters students strive to live by: Integrity, Concern for others, Appreciation, Respect and Effort.

Most importantly, the Ambassadors are the “culture-keepers” of the SquashBusters Program and embody what makes our community special – people who care deeply about each other and want to create incredible experiences for their teammates.

Breakfast With Champions


Tuesday, October 30 marked SquashBusters’ third annual Breakfast with Champions – a day we broke down walls and brought together people from different circumstances, all in the name of improving the SQB program and strengthening our community. SquashBusters Board members and Advisory Council members, alumni and staff, parents and supporters from Boston, Lawrence and Providence came together for a morning of conversation and inspiration as we tackled some of the most pressing issues faced by our students and program graduates: addressing inequities in public K-12 education, identifying obstacles and ensuring success in college, and supporting students on alternative post-secondary paths.

With SquashBusters Board members Meg Campbell and Juma Crawford leading the way, guests shared personal experiences and reflected on how those experiences have driven their own life outcomes. Then they dug into what SQB is doing well and what we could do better to support our students as they reach for success.  Across topics, one common theme emerged: networks.  Groups shared thoughts on the role SQB plays in broadening our students’ networks and providing access to people, organizations and resources to which they may not otherwise have access.

The morning was capped off with remarks from Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, a true champion for youth development and a fighter for justice, fairness and equality.  Born and raised in Boston with a personal story of strength and resilience through tragic circumstances, Councilor Campbell has dedicated her work – both before and since holding public office – to helping Boston’s families and communities that need it most.  She challenged everyone in the room to not only think about what SquashBusters can do better, but what each of us as individuals can do better. She urged everyone to carry that question with us every day.  Guests left the Breakfast with Champions inspired, motivated and driven to do more, to do better.  This is what makes all of you our Champions.

SquashBusters is grateful to have had so many great minds join us last week, and we are humbled by your grit and determination to continue this work with us.




Discovering Herself in Washington D.C.

Each summer, SquashBusters connects students to life-changing opportunities to travel, learn, and play – including the Urban Squash Citizenship Tour, which several SQB students, staff & alumni recently joined.

sqbers on citizenship tour
Kiara (center right) joined urban squash students and alumni, including Lynette, (second from left, SQB Lawrence ’19) and Amy (second from right, SQB Boston ’14 and current staff member) on the 5th Annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour.
Urban Squash Citizenship Tour students with Today Show Anchor Al Roker – Kiara is on his right!

The Urban Squash Citizenship Tour, hosted by Squash and Education Alliance (SEA), gives civically-minded and academically-accomplished high school and college students from across the country the opportunity to explore these questions during an 8-day trip that begins in New York City and ends in Washington, DC, with a stop in Philadelphia.

During the trip, students spent time with leaders in government, journalism, education, policy and the nonprofit community; visited sites that have played a part in American history; engaged with local urban squash programs; exercised and practiced at university and urban squash facilities; and promoted SEA’s local member programs and urban squash. Among other highlights, students met with Senator ​Cory Booker​, Senator ​Kirsten Gillibrand, and NBC Today Show Anchor​s Al Roker, Hoda Kotb and ​Willie Geist.

amy and kiara with supporter
Amy and Kiara even ran into Ashley Garrett (SQB Boston ’07) at a reception at Squash on Fire in Washington, D.C.

Over a dozen SquashBusters students and alumni have participated in the Citizenship Tour since it began five years ago. Below, hear from Kiara, SQB Boston ’18, about her experience in Washington, D.C.

Today my Citizenship Tour crew and I toured Washington D.C. For me, it is my first time here. I have never visited any state farther South than Pennsylvania. I enjoyed seeing all of the monuments, beautiful buildings, and the celebrations of the LGBTQ community all over the place. We also visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This particularly is my favorite highlight of the tour so far, because I found a little bit of myself today.

Being from Cape Verde and not knowing a lot about my own history, coming to this museum gave me more insight on it. Before I came to the United States at the age of 6, I did not know what “Black” was or which people were considered “African Americans.” Ever since, I have learned. Visiting this museum and seeing what my people (who I did not even know were my people) went through to achieve everything they have today was inspiring. As an African from Cape Verde, I know about the history of slavery, but I was not as affected by it as the African-Americans living in the United States because I did not have to experience many of the consequences of American slavery.

I have a sense of African pride that some might not have because they do not know much of their history and I realize this privilege I have. Even though I have been learning this history in schools for a decade, today I felt it harder than ever. I felt a connection like never before. I felt proud to be a part of the Black community like never before. Visiting this museum has left me even more inspired to continue the legacy of my ancestors. The museum is a beautiful place that makes the pain of slavery come to life, but also shows the beauty in the struggle. Through the struggle of enslavement to becoming free, the beauty of our culture was revealed through music and dance (one of the ways I connected because of the popularity of music and dance in Cape Verde) and so much more.

Experiencing this with my friends was also really amazing to me. I could not have gone through this painful but inspiring experience without their support. This tour has been really essential for me because it has given me the opportunity to connect with other young people who share my interest in changing the world. They are truly so bright and motivated. Sharing this experience with these individuals has been one of the best things I have done in my life.

To all my brothers and sisters, continue to discover yourselves too,


Originally published on the Urban Squash Citizenship Tour Blog.

SquashBusters Lawrence Reaches a Milestone

In its sixth year, SquashBusters Lawrence is fully grown with nearly 100 students in grades 6-12 and our very first graduates are college-bound – setting the stage for future success in classes to come.

First SquashBusters Lawrence Class is College-Bound

lawrence seniors
SQB Lawrence’s first class of seniors poses for a class photo in their new senior jackets! Clockwise from back left: Jeremy, Benito, Antar, Ashley, and Kat. (Not pictured: Jiberly)

2018 was a special year for SquashBusters Lawrence, as it marked the graduation of six students from the program’s first-ever class of recruits. The college acceptances received by these seniors were a direct result of years of commitment and dedication to their goal of a college education.

Building on the numerous college visits that students completed through their first five years in the program, and intensive SAT tutoring that each student received weekly during their junior year, each rising senior made multiple trips to the SquashBusters office during the 2017-2018 program year to continue their work on the college process. Extra time in the office was spent working on financial aid applications, essays, further research on different schools and more SAT practice tests. The fall months also offered the opportunity for additional college visits – many of which were crucial when it came time to make a decision later in the school year.

One of the most memorable moments of their senior year came during a December practice when, in a ceremony adapted from the Boston program, seniors read their college essays to the younger SQB students. The occasion not only allowed the oldest students on the team to share their personal stories with the rest of their teammates, but also gave all students in attendance a glimpse into the hard work required to succeed in high school. All in attendance, including middle schoolers, staff, and volunteers, were moved by the honesty and openness of the essays.

Jiberly, who has spent the last four years at Westover School in Middlebury, CT, was chosen by her classmates to be the student speaker at her graduation.

With the help of student mentors from Merrimack College as well as the SQB Staff – especially Post-Secondary Access & Success Program Coordinator Mike Shannon – every senior is poised for success for the next four years and beyond with a college choice that is a good fit academically and financially.

The SquashBusters Lawrence class of 2018 will be attending the following schools:

JEREMY DEL ROSARIO –Northern Essex Community College
BENITO DERAS – Bridgewater State University
ANTAR JIMENEZ JR. – Babson College
KATHERINE LEIVA – St. Lawrence University
JIBERLY SANDOVAL – Dickinson College

Lawrence Program Readies for its Busiest Summer Yet!

The Kenyon trip includes an opportunity for students to take in the sights at Niagara Falls on the way back to Lawrence from Ohio.

Though schools are on vacation during the summer months, our students will remain active through dozens of summer programs and opportunities made available to them through SquashBusters. Whether they are stimulating their intellectual curiosity in the classroom, honing their squash skills on court, or spending the summer outdoors and sleeping in log cabins, dozens of SQB Lawrence students will be making the most of their time off from school at a variety of day and sleepaway camps.

This summer, SquashBusters Lawrence has connected students to the following opportunities:

  • Academic enrichment programming like Exeter Summer at Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover Summer Session, opportunities coordinated in conjunction with the Squash + Education Alliance.
  • Improving their squash skills at numerous camps across New England like Peter Nicol Squash Academy at Amherst College, Premier Performance Squash Camp at Wesleyan University, Williams College’s Squash and Beyond Camp, Hansi Wiens Squash Camps at Dartmouth, and SEA Squash Squads at Deerfield Academy.
  • Days and nights spent in the wilderness at several of the YMCA’s day and overnight camps in New Hampshire – Camp Lawrence, Camp Nokomis, and Camp Otter – as well as the West End House Girls Camp in Maine, and Camp Waban in Canada.
  • Road tripping and sight-seeing our way from Lawrence to the Urban Squash Midwest Regionals at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
  • Learning about careers in government and public service through SEA’s Citizenship Tour. The eight day trip will pass through New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. where participants will meet leaders in politics and media. Past panelists have included U.S. Senator Corey Booker, NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

In addition the these external programs, students remaining in Lawrence will have the opportunity to stay involved with SquashBusters through our own summer programming and squash squads through the month of July on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover. These sessions will be comprised of team building activities, team trips, and an excursion to our sister program in Providence, as well as two weeks of intensive squash training. This allows students the opportunity to remain engaged with the program as well as benefit from many of the positive aspects of summer camps while staying close to home. To learn more about our middle school summer programming, click here!

Furthermore, rising seniors will participate in multiple college prep sessions where they will get a jump start on applications, essays, as well as further SAT tutoring before the start of their final year of high school.

Huge thanks to Essex County Community Foundation for supporting our internal summer programs at SQB Lawrence!

A Whirlwind Year of Squash

The SquashBusters Girls U-15 team poses with their finalist trophies at the 2018 Urban Team Nationals Tournament in New York City.

The 2017-2018 year was the busiest ever in terms of squash competitions for our students here in Lawrence. Over the course of the year, we participated in 24 matches and 14 tournaments, travelling to seven states for numerous day trips and weekend overnights.

Though each competition had its own individual triumphs, there were a few moments in particular that stood out among a year of on-court achievement for SquashBusters Lawrence.

In the first-ever StreetSquash match consisting of players from four different program sites (Boston and Lawrence for SquashBusters, Harlem and Newark for StreetSquash) SquashBusters emerged victorious in a thrilling affair. The 19th iteration of this friendly competition pitted the top fourteen male and female players from the two programs and drew a crowd to watch the day of squash at Yale University. Thirteen high schoolers from Lawrence competed and were proud to make sure the trophy returned to Massachusetts for the third straight year.

We continued our strong relationship with Portland Community Squash, with four matches throughout the winter months. One of these excursions was the first-ever squash match (and first-ever trip to Maine!) for many of our first-year students. Portland and Lawrence students helped each other through serving, rallying, and scoring before sharing pizzas after a great day on court.

The high school team also continued its tradition of facing off against St. Paul’s School – a duel which not only pits our top players against the JV teams of one of the strongest high school programs in the region, but also sees SQB Lawrence coach Darryl Soto face off against his old SquashBusters coach, Chris Smith. This matchup marked the first time an SQB team got the better of these particular opponents, with the Lawrence girls narrowly edging the St. Paul’s girls 8-6, before the whole group headed back to Lawrence for a team dinner.

SquashBusters Lawrence also had several exciting individual results from the multitude of tournaments attended – including 11th grader Winipher Romero winning the GU17 A Draw at Urban Individual Regionals, and 8th Grader Julissa Morales taking home the top spot in the GU15 B draw at Urban Individual Nationals.

Still to come this summer, students can look forward to squash time during our summer programming sessions at Phillips Academy, as well as two weeks of intensive squash squads for our most motivated students looking for a leg-up before the start of the new year in September. Also, a group of nine intrepid high schoolers and three staff will be road tripping to Kenyon University in Gambier, OH for the Midwest Urban Squash Regionals.

Want more SquashBusters news?

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Boston.

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Providence.

SquashBusters Providence Wraps Up Outstanding First Year

In its very first year, SquashBusters Providence is already having a powerful impact in the city. With strong partners by its side, the program is serving nearly 30 students with a plan to eventually serve 110.

A Strong Start for SQB Providence

providence students at individuals
SquashBusters Providence made its very first appearance at the annual Urban Individual Nationals competition at Williams College.

What an inaugural year it has been for SquashBusters Providence! During the 2017-2018 year, the newest SQB site has emerged on the scene and celebrated many important milestones:

  • November 2017: In conjunction with the Providence Public School District, we introduced the sport of squash to over 300 students at DelSesto Middle School, our 1,000-student school partner.
  • December 2017: Joined by our friends at Moses Brown School and Nicol Squash Club, we opened the new 12-court, 2-classroom Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center.
  • February 2018: We named twenty-eight DelSesto 6th grade students to the inaugural SquashBusters Providence team – an event that was covered by The Providence Journal.
  • May 2018: We hosted the SquashBusters Invitational tournament, where 90 students from all three SQB sites competed against each other for the first time.
  • June 2018: One of our students, Kealie Burt, was honored by Governor Gina Raimondo as a winner of the Relish Rhody Recipe Contest; and 11 students represented SQB Providence at the Urban Individuals Tournament.

In addition to these bigger events, we also ran over 80 days of programming, visited Harvard University and Trinity College, watched high-level college squash at the men’s and women’s national tournaments, and performed community service around the greater Providence area. In addition, 100% of our students played in at least one competitive squash match, and many officially have the squash “bug”!

Strong partnerships have been a core part of our inaugural year in Providence. Our Leadership Council, a group of local stakeholders that meets monthly, has helped us expand our networks and establish a strong funding base around the city and state. They are leading the charge as we ramp up to our first-ever SquashBusters Rumble, a fundraising squash tournament scheduled for January 26, 2019, that is built on the model of the successful MFS SquashBusters Derby in Boston. Already, Bank of America has proudly signed on to be Title Sponsor of the Rumble!

The teachers and administrators at DelSesto have helped us get up to speed with the academic expectations and programs in the Providence Public School District. We have shared best practices, strategized about how to support students in many different subjects, and attended parent-teacher conferences.

Finally, we have built strong relationships with the families of our students, most of whom have visited our building to support their kids on the courts and in the classroom. We will start our first ever Family Committee in 2018-2019, and so appreciate the on-going presence of all of our students’ families!

We have many exciting plans for the year ahead, starting with summer programs around Providence for squash, academics, and enrichment. In September we will also add new students to our community, with our original group moving into 7th grade and taking on important leadership roles for our new crew of 18 DelSesto 6th graders. We are proud of our first year and psyched to embark on year #2!

SquashBusters Providence Partners Up for Success

ribbon cutting
The Gorgi family cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center.

During the spring, summer, and fall of 2017, all eyes were on a construction site on the corner of Hope and Barnes streets in Providence. The Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center, the permanent home of the Moses Brown School squash teams, SquashBusters Providence, and Nicol Squash Club, now sits on this edge of the MB campus. The vision for this facility was that it would be a welcoming, accessible space where a diverse group of squash players could unite over a love for the game – in the seven months that the building has been open, this kind of environment is already coming to life.

The Gorgi Center officially opened on Saturday, December 9th, 2017, in the middle of an early snowstorm. We welcomed over 200 people to the facility for speeches, tours, and a squash match between the Moses Brown and SquashBusters Boston varsity teams. Later that night, former world squash number 1 player Peter Nicol played Arthur Gaskin, the 7-time Irish national squash champion and resident pro at the Gorgi Center, in an exhibition match. It would not be an overstatement to say that the building has been full ever since that day!

While the partnership between Moses Brown, Nicol Squash Club, and SquashBusters Providence is based on a shared space, it has become so much more throughout this year. Arthur, the resident pro at NSC, has shared his time and expertise with our students by welcoming them to clinics, summer camps, and private lessons, as well as hopping on court to play informally whenever he has time. The club currently has over 300 members, many of whom have played alongside our students at some point – especially on Saturday mornings when the club is particularly busy!

Our connections at Moses Brown started with the squash teams and have extended throughout many different parts of the school. We piloted a reading buddy program with the Middle School Service Club where 8th graders worked on literacy projects with our students, and also welcomed the Upper School Service Club to programming during their spring break. We also have a solid cadre of 8-10 upper school student volunteers who spend time with our students on the court and in the classroom. SquashBusters students have visited the ceramics studio, worked with teachers from the innovation hub, and participated in the World Peace Games on the MB campus.

Already, the Gorgi Center is a true community squash hub, just as it was envisioned to be. We are excited to see what lies ahead here in the space, and hope you’ll come visit us to see the magic in action!

Student Spotlight: Kealie Burt

reslish rhody
Kealie at the Relish Rhody competition, where she was named a finalist for her lavender lemon angel food cake recipe.

Kealie Burt is not your typical 6th grade student at DelSesto Middle School. She is an academic all-star, a member of the first-ever SquashBusters Providence team, and an accomplished writer and winner of the 2018 Relish Rhody contest, a state-wide competition put on by Governor Gina Raimondo. This week, we sat down with her to get to know her a little better.

Tell us about yourself.  Where are you from?

I am from Providence, Rhode Island, but my family is from Mexico and Guatemala.  I live with my dad and my six sisters. Next year I am going to a new school called TAPA (Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts) to double major in dance and music.

What made you try out for SQB?

I remember when Ali and Rodney came to our gym class to show us how to play squash and I really liked it. The next week, my dad and I came to the parent-teacher conference and SquashBusters had a table. I remember Ali and and Rodney saying, “Hey! Do you wanna join SquashBusters?”, and my dad told me I should try out, so I did.

What was your favorite memory from this year?

My favorite memory from this year was when we went on the girl’s trip to Boston and there was a big spider on the bus. Everyone started screaming and it was really funny. Luckily, I was sitting in the back, so I wasn’t close to it!

What’s the best thing about SquashBusters?

Everything— hanging out with friends, trips and tournaments, and spending time with your coaches.

What do you want to do after college?

I want to go to law school to become a lawyer. I love watching shows about lawyers and, in my real life, I like arguing with people just to make a point. My dad always tells me I would make a good lawyer.

What are three words your friends would use to describe you?

Creative, smart, and corny.

Who do you look up to?

I look up to my mentor at church, Sonia. She has a really good job and is really organized. She helps me with my school work and I help her plan events at church. I also look up to my coaches, Rodney and Ali, because they help me with squash and academics and both of them are cool.

What advice do you have for the new 6th graders next year?

My advice to the new 6th graders is pay attention at squash when Rodney is speaking, and at school, make sure you study and hand in your work on time. Oh, and keep track of your stuff at squash and don’t lose it, like me!

Anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to?

My SquashBusters Providence teammates because they always try their best and give 100% effort!


Want more SquashBusters news?

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Boston.

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Lawrence.

Another Incredible Year at SquashBusters Boston

Another year comes to an end at SquashBusters, and we’re thrilled to look back on a year of extraordinary accomplishments – from stepping up the squash culture to sending another full class of graduates to college.

SquashBusters Boston Makes the Journey To & Through

The SQB Boston class of 2018, 100% of whom are enrolling in college this fall.

For the fourth year in a row, 100% of SquashBusters’ program graduates will be enrolling in college, and we are so proud of each and every one of them.

The impressive list of schools below is a direct result of the collective effort, commitment, and dedication that this class has put in over the course of their academic and SQB careers. From the very start of their time in the program as middle school students, SquashBusters students are exposed to college through visits and competitions and academic sessions at SQB. Throughout their high school years, students attend regular workshops to build and strengthen their college-readiness skills, including organization, time management and effective study habits, and junior year, they complete a 40-hour SAT prep course.

As seniors, they finally made their college dream a reality. With SquashBusters by their sides – including College and Alumni Success Manager Mikhail Darlington, Academic Program Manager Eileen Barrer, and their volunteer college mentors – the seniors worked hard on their college lists, applications, and essays, to ultimately find schools that fit academically and financially. On average, 84% of their financial aid was met through debt-free grants and scholarships, and no student took on more than $7,500 in annual student debt.

“The class of 2018 put in an incredible amount of work this year balancing their applications with their busy senior schedules,” says Mikhail. “We are so proud of them for what they’ve achieved, and we’re confident that each and every one of them is heading to a school where they’ll succeed.”

The SquashBusters class of 2018 will be heading to the following schools:

Alum Deanna Pettway (SQB Boston ’13) hugs Heyssis Castillo (SQB Boston ’18) at the annual Seniors vs. Alumni Match at SquashBusters on May 31.

HEYSSIS CASTILLO – Trinity College
CHRISTINA DIXON – Northeastern University
YVONNE DUNKLEY – Babson College
ELIAS GONZALEZ – Foundation Year at Northeastern University
YANJING HUANG — Bucknell University
TINA JAGMOHAN – Hampshire College
KIMBERLYN JONES – Boston College
CYNTHIA LI – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
AYRAMALYS MEJIA – Mass. Bay Community College
ALEJANDRO MELGUIZO – Foundation Year at Northeastern University
AUDREY MELO – UMass Amherst
BELKIS MONTAS – Foundation Year at Northeastern University
MARK ANTHONY WILLIAMS – Foundation Year at Northeastern University
TONI WOODS – Smith College

graduation photo
Helam Ayano (SquashBusters ’13) proudly holds up her degree after graduating from Northeastern University this spring.

Of course, their graduation from the program does not mean that they leave the SquashBusters family. Mikhail and the SquashBusters College and Alumni Success team stay in regular contact with each college-enrolled alum, to help them navigate the big transition to college life and work through any obstacles that might stand in the way of completing their degrees.

Luckily, they have quite a few role models to look up to in that department. Eleven SquashBusters alumni graduated from college this year:

HELAM AYANO – Northeastern University
LOSANGELA BATISTA – St. Lawrence University
AARON COSS – Bentley University
KEVEN DEPINA – Bates College
ALÉJANDRA MADRID – Mass. Bay Community College
ANTENEH MEKONNEN – Roger Williams University
SADIKI SOLOMON – Rochester Institute of Technology
YAMILES URENA – Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Congratulations to all of the 2018 graduates – we are so excited to see what’s next for each and every one of you!

Stepping Up Their Squash Game

sqb vs. streetsquash
SquashBusters took home the cup at the annual SQB vs. StreetSquash match in March.

The 2017-2018 program year saw some serious strides for the SquashBusters Boston squash program. The first-ever Boston Public Schools varsity squash team – which received the official sanction from the district’s athletic department – finished its inaugural season at 9-5 on the Girls’ side, and 8-7 for the Boys. But this was only one chapter in the story.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our squash staff, nearly every one of our Boston students – from our youngest and most novice players to the very top of the ladder – competed in at least one match or tournament during the program year. Along with valuable competitive experience on the court, competitions provide our students with opportunities to travel to new places – including prep school and college campuses – and meet new people who are similarly passionate about the sport of squash.

Altogether, SQB Boston students participated in 59 competitive squash opportunities this year. Some highlights included the Howe Cup in Washington, D.C., the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA)’s Urban Team Nationals in New York City, the U.S. High School Team Squash Championships in Philadelphia, and the SquashBusters vs. StreetSquash match in at Yale University.

On top of competitions, more than 25 students participated in the Elite Training Squad (ETS), which is an additional opportunity for students to build squash skills by participating in optional practices on Saturday mornings. Huge thanks to our ETS volunteers, Ryan Thompson and Alex Spiliotes, for helping make this opportunity possible for our students. And twenty students were matched with volunteer squash mentors, with whom they practiced on a regular basis. Thank you to our squash mentors for your dedication to helping our students improve!

“From the amount of exposure that the students are getting, to the general strength of the overall ladder, the level of the squash programming at SquashBusters Boston has never been higher,” says SQB Founder and CEO Greg Zaff. “I’m incredibly proud to see a continual hunger for more opportunities and improvement driving this change – from both the students and the staff – and can’t wait to see where we go from here.”

Working Hard, Playing Hard: Summer at SquashBusters

students with cory booker
SquashBusters students met Cory Booker on the 2017 SEA Citizenship Tour.

Here at SquashBusters, summer is more than a vacation – it’s a time for our students to build on the work they do during the school year by continuing to expand their minds, sharpen their squash skills, and build their personal networks. This summer, more than 70 of our Boston students will be setting off for squash squads, academic programs, recreational camps and employment experiences all over the world.

SquashBusters teams up with incredible partners like the Squash and Education Association (SEA), Summer Search, and the Lewis Family Foundation to connect our students to life-changing experiences that challenge them in ways they never thought possible.

This summer, SquashBusters has connected our Boston students to the following activities:

  • Stimulating their intellectual curiosity by participating in summer academic programs like Exeter Summer at Phillip Exeter Academy, Harvard University’s Crimson Summer Academy, and Boston University SummerLab
  • Building their squash skills at squads like Peter Nicol Squash Academy at Amherst College, Dartmouth College Squash Camps, MIT Squash Camp with Thierry Lincou, Premier Performance Squash Camp at Wesleyan University, and Williams College Squash and Beyond Camp
  • Heading off to summer camp in the great outdoors at Camp Dudley, Camp Woodstock and West End House Camps
  • Road-tripping across state lines, along with SquashBusters Lawrence and Providence, to compete in urban squash Midwest Championship at Kenyon College – the journey to Gambier, Ohio, will incorporate stops in Niagara Falls and Pittsburgh along the way!
  • Learning about careers in government and public service through SEA’s Citizenship Tour, an 8-day academic and athletic trip with stops in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC – past participants have met big names like U.S Senator Cory Booker, NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
  • Service learning in Kenya and Tanzania, along with a summer internship at Grand Circle Corporation, through the Lewis Family Foundation’s Next Generation Leaders program
  • Off-the-grid adventuring in the wilderness of Colorado and sailing lessons in Boston Harbor through Summer Search

Along with these external programs, students will also be able to stay active and engaged with SQB at our youth center on the campus of Northeastern University. Through open court time and our On Or Off Court With Kids (OOOCWK) challenge – which pairs staff and volunteers with individual students for weekly squash and/or fitness sessions – students are able to keep moving during July and August.

For our middle school students, the SQB Boston Summer Slam will take place from July 16-August 2. Learn more about the Summer Slam here.

Want more SquashBusters news?

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Lawrence.

Read the 2018 year-end newsletter for SquashBusters Providence.

SquashBusters CEO Greg Zaff Sits Down with

greg playing squash with yvonne

In a fantastic interview with Hilary Sargent, SquashBusters founder and CEO Greg Zaff talked about the history of the program, how it has grown from a program serving 24 kids using borrowed courts and classrooms, and how ‪urban squash‬ became a worldwide movement that has served over 2000 youth since it began twenty years ago.

Read the interview.

Governor Baker Stops By To Wish a Happy 20th to SquashBusters

governor baker with student
Governor Baker congratulates Bryante Thomson (SQB ’16) on her acceptance to Salem State University.
Governor Baker speaks to SquashBusters students from Boston and Lawrence.

Gov. Charlie Baker stopped by the SquashBusters center at Northeastern University on Friday, April 29th, to wish a very happy anniversary to the world’s first urban squash program and offer his congratulations on the profound impact the organization has on the health and educational success of Boston and Lawrence youth. The governor’s visit came just a week before the organization’s biggest fundraiser, the MFS SquashBusters Derby, which is poised to raise over $1 million for the youth development program.

With his visit, Gov. Baker continued a time-honored tradition of Massachusetts governors saluting SquashBusters and the program’s unique model of empowering urban young people through the sport of squash. In 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick, an avid squash player, visited the program with former Gov. Michael Dukakis. Gov. William Weld was on the founding Board of Directors of the organization in 1996.

Gov. Baker spoke at length with students currently participating in the program, the majority of whom attend public schools in Boston and Lawrence, including the Timity Middle School, John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science and Joseph Lee K-8 School in Boston, and the Emily G. Wetherbee School, Arlington Middle School and Lawrence High School in Lawrence.

After taking a quick tour of the facility, including the wall of colleges that showcases all of the schools SquashBusters alumni are attending or have graduated from, Governor Baker spoke to the students, who ranged from sixth graders to high school seniors.

“Good schools are always looking for good kids who demonstrate confidence, commitment and perseverance – which makes this an incredible opportunity for all involved,” he said.

SquashBusters has served more than 500 young people since its inception in 1996, and 98% of its graduates have gone on to attend college. The first urban squash program of its kind, SquashBusters is a sports-based after school youth development program that uses a combination of squash and fitness, academic enrichment, and character development to open doors and prepare students for college. In 2003, SquashBusters partnered with Northeastern University to build an eight-court squash facility, which is shared by Northeastern and SquashBusters Boston students.

“I can’t think of a more meaningful and motivating 20th birthday present for SquashBusters than to have Governor Baker take time to come visit and meet with our students,” said Greg Zaff, who founded the program and currently serves as the CEO. “It speaks volumes as to how much he cares about young people, education, and the essential importance of expanding opportunity to all Massachusetts communities and people.”

April 29, 2016. Boston, MA.Massachusetts Governor Baker visits Squashbusters Inc.© 2016 Marilyn Humphries

The program is currently serving nearly 300 students in Boston and Lawrence, with plans to expand to Providence through a partnership with the Moses Brown School within the next two years. In Lawrence, the program takes place using borrowed courts and classrooms at the Brooks School and Phillips Academy.

SquashBusters has served as the model for what has now become an international movement that is impacting the health, character and educational success of thousands of urban youth. The Boston program paved the way for urban squash and education programs in twenty U.S. cities, including New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and San Diego, as well as several programs abroad. Together, these programs serve more than 2,000 students worldwide.

Photographs by Marilyn Humphries Photography

Seizing Opportunity with SquashBusters

nusea students outside capitol
SQB’s Antar Jimenez (front row, far left) and Yami Urena (front row, second from right) travelled toWashington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City for the NUSEA Citizenship Tour.

The Trip of a Lifetime: SquashBusters Students Embark on Third Annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour

nusea students at nbc
Urban squash students meet with NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt at 30 Rock.

SquashBusters’ strong partnership with the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) allows us to connect our students to incredible opportunities, from squash squads to internships to academic programs, that expand their horizons. One such opportunity is the Citizenship Tour, which gives select urban squash students the chance to travel the country and meet influential leaders in the world of government, media and civic life.

Antar Jimenez, SquashBusters Lawrence ’18, was one of the lucky students chosen for this experience this past summer. With 23 other students from 11 different programs, Antar spent eight days travelling up and down the East Coast, stopping in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., on the third annual Citizenship Tour.

Along the way, students met with some famous faces and big names, including Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Senator Al Franken (MN), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. “Meeting the senators and Supreme Court Justice Kagan was great,” said Antar. “The tour helped give me greater appreciation for their jobs and the hard work they put in. You can really see how they seek to make a beneficial change in their environment and make a difference in the lives of others.”

The group also visited Independence Hall and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, toured NBC Studios, The New York Times Building, the U.S. Capitol and The White House, and attended a professional soccer game to watch the Philadelphia Union battle it out against DC United.

Of course, there was plenty of squash as well – the week kicked off with a hit-around at StreetSquash Harlem, and students got to hear about the history of urban squash from StreetSquash Executive Director George Polsky and NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. Two of the U.S. Senators, Senator Franken and Senator Gillibrand, are fellow players. Sen. Gillibrand even jumped on court with students on the last day of the tour.

Antar was not the only SquashBusters representative in attendance. Yamiles Urena, SquashBusters ’14, attended as an alumna and chaperone. Both Antar and Yamiles had a great time travelling and bonding with fellow members of the urban squash family. “We didn’t expect that after just a week, we would have gotten so close,” said Antar. “We didn’t want the week to end. I’m so excited to see everyone at the next NUSEA tournament.”


Champions Come Together to ‘Light’ the Way for SQB

Matt Light speaks to SQB supporters at the first annual Breakfast with Champions

Nearly sixty of the program’s biggest stakeholders showed their incredible commitment to SquashBusters when they braved early morning traffic and chilly temperatures for the first ever Breakfast with Champions on Thursday, October 27th. Board members, volunteers, school partners and major donors put their heads together over omelets and pastries by the SQB squash courts at Northeastern University to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities currently facing the organization.

The morning kicked off with welcome remarks by SQB alum and Board member Jose Rivera, followed by a program update by Boston Program Director Myra Sack and Lawrence Executive Director Dora Lubin. Myra and Dora gave a recap of the 2015-2016 program year, sprinkling in a few standout stories of student success, before laying out what’s in store for both programs in 2016-2017.

After guests learned about some of SQB’s successes and challenges over the past 12 months, Board member Meg Campbell put them to work, challenging each person in the room to put on his or her “consultant hat” and join the others at their tables in brainstorming solutions for specific issues facing SquashBusters this year. Topics included identifying strategies for engaging with the corporate community in Boston, sourcing leaders and partners for the program’s expansion to Providence, and telling our story effectively to supporters. Each group quickly rose to the occasion, filling up their designated poster boards with thoughtful ideas on how to strengthen SQB and its network. Once time was up, Board member Juma Crawford facilitated a group share-out, and each table revealed its best ideas for tackling its specific challenge.

To cap off the inspirational morning, Matt Light, former New England Patriots offensive lineman and founder of the Light Foundation, spoke to the crowd about the importance of programs like SQB. Serving youth through his own organization, Matt is no stranger to the work SQB does each day and the vital role of all of the people behind the program. “All of you in this room are what make all of this possible,” he said.

With full bellies and plenty of motivation, each person in the room left the Breakfast with Champions with new energy, inspired to continue with the important work that changes kids lives for the better. We can’t wait to do it again next year!


SquashBusters Sets Out on Another Record-Breaking Year

Three SQB girls – and one coach! – competed in the Howe Cup at Chelsea Piers Connecticut.

The 2016-2017 year is off to a great start at SquashBusters.

This fall, we welcomed more than 100 students who tried out for official spots on the SquashBusters Boston and Lawrence teams. In Boston, 35 seventh-graders were ultimately selected for the Boston 2022 team and 17 sixth-graders made the final Lawrence 2023 team. In addition, four new eighth-graders joined the Boston program and five new students – one in seventh grade, two in eighth and two in ninth grade – became part of the SQB Lawrence community. As always, students were selected based on their commitment and enthusiasm for the opportunity, not on their athletic or academic ability. We are so excited to welcome the new members of the SQB family!

Thanks to our partner schools, Codman Academy Charter Public School, John D. OBryant School of Math and Science, Joseph Lee K-8 School, Rafael Hernandez School, and Timilty Middle School in Boston, as well as Arlington Middle School and Emily G. Wetherbee School in Lawrence, we are able to bring the sport of squash and the myriad of opportunities that come with it to the youth of both cities.

students visiting tripadvisor
SQB high school students visited TripAdvisor to tour their state-of-the-art headquarters and meet and chat with employees from various departments.

This year, SquashBusters will serve more than 300 middle school, high school and college students – more than ever before.

Meanwhile, our more established SquashBusters students are working hard, both on court and off. In Boston, eighth-graders have been meeting with their individual tutors twice per week to build their math and literacy skills, thanks to our partnership with Tutors for All. All ninth and tenth-graders have been working on academics as well, mixing in some career-readiness activities like resume-writing and even taking a trip to TripAdvisor to check out all the different aspects of a corporate environment. Our high school juniors have started SAT prep and taken their first practice test both in Boston and in Lawrence, where for the first time, students are going through the college application process.

Finally, our seventeen seniors are taking some of the most important steps in their SquashBusters careers. This summer, our rising seniors were matched with individual college mentors to begin work on their essays and applications. With the support of their mentors and SQB staff, they’re currently hard at work finalizing their list of schools and editing their essays. In addition, this year, the FAFSA opened up early, so students have begun the financial aid process also with help from SQB mentors and staff. It’s hard work now, but it will certainly pay off in the spring once the acceptance letters starting rolling in. We can’t wait to see where they’ll be this time next year!

On the squash court, SquashBusters students have already competed in eleven matches and tournaments since the year began, including the Howe Cup, Noble & Greenough Bronze, St. Lukes Silver and NUSEA Northeast Regionals. Students have also had opportunities to train with the Harvard University and Wellesley College squash teams.

We’re so proud of all that our students have accomplished so far this year, and we are so excited to see what 2017 has to bring! To keep up with everything going on at SquashBusters as it happens, be sure to like SQB and SQB Lawrence on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!


A Circle of Support: Alumni Return to Give Back to SQB

From left to right: Darryl Soto, Mikhail Darlington, Rodney Galvao, Vicky Flamenco, Alejandra Madrid and Ti Tran are all SQB alumni who have returned to work for the program.

One of the best parts about serving young people is watching them grow into kind, successful, well-rounded adults. With more than two decades of programming under our belt, SquashBusters now has a broad network of alumni, and nothing makes us happier than welcoming some of them back to SQB as staff members. This year, seven SquashBusters alumni are employed in both full- and part-time positions. As squash coaches, academic coordinators, alumni and college success managers, finance administrators, and support staff, SQB alumni fill roles in every corner of the organization.

Day in and day out, Mikhail Darlington, Vicky Flamenco, Rodney Galvao, Alejandra Madrid, Deanna Pettway, Darryl Soto, and Ti Tran move the needle for the 300 SquashBusters students in Boston, Lawrence, and in college.

SQB alumna Deanna Pettaway joined the staff this year as a College and Alumni Success Assistant.

As program staff, Mikhail, Vicky, Rodney, Ale, Darryl and Deanna coach, teach, mentor, and support kids on their journeys through middle school, high school, and beyond, bringing along with them the unique perspective of having once been in the very same shoes as our current students. On the finance side, Ti helps the organization run smoothly and ensures that we will be around for many more students in the future.

After graduating from Temple University in 2011, Mikhail, SquashBusters ’07, took a corporate job with a property management company. Although successful at work, he felt that something was missing – his heart was with urban squash and youth development. In 2015, Mikhail returned to SquashBusters as our College Access and Success Manager, working with our high school students and alumni as they make their way to and through college. “I know from personal experience how hard it is as a student of color to navigate high school and college. I want to share my own insight and experiences with current students who are dealing with some of those same struggles,” he says.

Deanna, SquashBusters ’14, joined Mikhail’s College and Alumni Success team this fall. Currently enrolled at Northeastern University, Deanna has always stayed close to the program. She values  having ties to a program like SquashBusters, whose staff still supports and cares about her, and now she provides that same concern and encouragement for SQB’s 71 college students across the country. Her advice to current students? “Don’t take for granted all the opportunities the program provides,” she offers. “In the future, every opportunity you’ve had here will open doors and prove beneficial.”

Along with Mikhail and Deanna, Vicky, Rodney, Ale, Darryl, and Ti contribute to the success of our program in ways that no one else can. Having grown up with this program, they know firsthand the impact SquashBusters can have on a young person’s life. We are so grateful that they’ve chosen to return to SQB and make a difference for our current students. As alumni continue to graduate each year, we look forward to welcoming many more of them to the staff someday!