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

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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

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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

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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 Boston.com

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!

Twenty Years and Counting

An Incredible Weekend of Urban Squash

SQB Boston high school students with Academic Coordinator Eileen Barrer at Amherst College for Urban Individual Nationals.

Over the weekend of June 17-19, SquashBusters took its annual trip west, heading to Williams and Amherst colleges for the 14th Urban Individual Squash Championships held by the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA). SquashBusters brought 83 excited middle and high school students from Boston and Lawrence, comprising nearly 20% of the 400 urban squash players across both campuses.

The event showcased the incredible talent, sportsmanship, and grit that are the hallmarks of every urban squash program. The weekend is a favorite of many SquashBusters students – largely because it gives them a taste of college life, from sleeping in the dorms and eating in the dining halls to playing on the university courts and touring the academic facilities.

sqb girls at williams college
SQB Boston middle school girls at Williams College on Saturday, June 18.

“The tournament is a lot of fun because not only do you get to spend time with students in your own program, you also get to see friends you’ve made in other programs from all over the country and world. Spending time on a college campus especially gives juniors and seniors a feel for college. From having a roommate to sharing a bathroom and respecting the space of the other students around you, you really get to picture yourself in college”, says Pedro Leta-Flores, a SquashBusters senior who

spent the weekend at Amherst College for his fifth UIN tournament.

As always, competition was tough, but SquashBusters was proud to see students distinguish themselves both on and off the court. SQB Lawrence ninth-grader, Melbin Rojas, was the winner of the BU17B draw, while three SquashBusters players were finalists in their respective draws: SQB Lawrence sixth-grader Amaiya Lu (GU13B), SQB Boston eighth-grader Marangela James (GU15B), and SQB Boston junior Matthew Nwaford (BU17A). In addition, SQB Boston junior Jose Soto was honored with the Under 19 Academic Award. Notable SquashBusters results are listed below.

boys at tournament
SQB Lawrence middle school boys at Williams College.

“One of my favorite parts of the weekend is watching our students walking through the Williams and Amherst campuses – to and from the dining halls, the dorms and the squash facilities. As soon as they arrive, they feel at home, and quickly reconnect with old friends and make new ones. It’s inspiring to see so many students from so many programs, and SquashBusters always has a large and positive influence on the weekend,” said Tim Wyant, NUSEA Executive Director.

We are so thankful to Williams College and Amherst College for graciously hosting the Urban Individual Squash Championships, and to the staff at NUSEA for putting together this wonderful event year after year.


Winner (First place)

Melbin Rojas, 9th grade, BU17B

Finalist (Second place)

Amaiya Lu, 6th grade, GU13B

Marangela James, 8th grade, GU15B

Matthew Nwaford, 11th grade, BU17A

Third place

Cynthia Gomez, 7th grade, GU13B

Kaetu Wleh, 9th grade, BU15A

Kira Tejeda, 11th grade, GU17A

Fourth place

June Zhang, 8th grade, GU15B

Edward Arias-Diaz, 11th grade, BU19A

Jennifer Mbah, 11th grade, GU19A

Classic Plate Winner (Fifth place)

Colin Ye, 8th grade, BU15B

Valerie Rosario, 7th grade, GU15B

Academic Awards

Jose Soto, 11th grade, BU19


Congratulations, class of 2016!

SquashBusters’ graduating seniors officially joined the Alumni family at the Seniors vs. Alumni match on May 31.

SquashBusters is so excited to offer our heartfelt congratulations to our graduating high school seniors, who are ready to take on the world with SquashBusters in their corner! We are so proud of our 18 graduates, who are setting off on various post-secondary paths:

Providence College
UMass Lowell
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
UMass Lowell
Pine Manor College
Emmanuel College
Boston University
UMass Boston
Denison University
Providence College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
UMass Dartmouth
UMass Dartmouth
Salem State University: Summer Bridge Academy
Salem State University
St. Lawrence University
Northeastern University

These students have worked incredibly hard to get where they’re going, and this year was no exception. Together with their mentors, SquashBusters staff, and their families, the class of 2016 logged hundreds of hours editing college essays, filling out applications and financial aid forms, and researching and applying for scholarships. As a result, they collectively received 111 acceptances and earned over $433,369 in grants and scholarships. In a world where students are graduating with increasingly unmanageable amounts of debt, our students will graduate with less than half the national four-year average of $28,950.

SquashBusters is so glad that we can remain a supportive resource for our alumni in college, and that their relationships with us don’t sever once they’ve graduated from the program. SQB alumnus and College and Alumni Success Coordinator Mikhail Darlington will be checking in regularly with the class of 2016 once the school year begins, just as he does with all of our college students, to ensure they are academically, socially and financially thriving and on track to make it to another graduation day.

SQB graduates (L to R) Jason, Alex and Rose.

Speaking of which, we are thrilled to congratulate our four alumni who graduated from college this May:

Boston University

UMass Amherst

Suffolk University

Boston University


SquashBusters Celebrates 10th Derby with $1.2 Million Raised

derby pros
The Derby’s squash professionals, from left to right: David Palmer, Thierry Lincou, Graham Bassett, Clinton Leeuw, Jonathon Power, Amanda Sobhy, Peter Nicol, Mark Chaloner and Dan Sharplin

In an awe-inspiring show of support for SquashBusters’ twentieth year, members of the Boston community rallied together to raise over $1.2 million for the tenth MFS SquashBusters Derby at the University Club of Boston on Friday, May 6th and at SquashBusters on Saturday, May 7th.

With help MFS Investment Management, who generously signed on as the event’s title sponsor for the fifth year in a row, and Westfield Capital, SquashBusters raised a record-breaking amount for its program: the final tally coming in at $1,241,720.

The Derby, which is a pro-amateur squash competition that takes place each May, brings together supporters from all over the world who commit to fundraising at least $5,000 for their spot as a doubles or singles player on one of the eight competing teams. This year, MFS Chairman and co-CEO Rob Manning and CFO Amrit Kanwal both supported the event and played doubles for Wallbanger, the defending champions who won the competition for the eighth year in a row after a rematch of last year’s finals against runner-up Eijk’s Knights.

While Wallbanger took home the trophy as winners of the squash competition, each year the Derby also recognizes the individual who raises the most on behalf of the program through the coveted Secretariat Award. This year’s cup was presented to two Board members: Sandy Tierney, Executive Vice-President at McCall & Almy and David Drubner, Executive Director at The Baupost Group; each of whom raised nearly $95,000 to support the nearly 300 Boston and Lawrence youth who benefit from the SquashBusters program.

In addition to MFS, corporate sponsors of the event include Westfield Capital Management, Audax Group, Berkshire Partners, Brown Brothers Harriman, Carousel Industries, Clough Capital PartnersDeloitte, Ernst & Young LLP, Folger Hill Asset Management, General Catalyst Partners, Kohlberg & Associates, McCall & Almy, National Development/Charles River Realty Investors, New Balance, William Neil & Co., Sapient Global Markets, State Street Corporation, Sun Life Investment ManagementThermo Fisher Scientific, TOG and UBS.

On Saturday, supporters filled the SquashBusters facility on the Northeastern University campus, to watch singles matches and enjoy a cocktail party and a speaking program featuring remarks from graduating SquashBusters senior Yaritza Amado, a student at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury.

“It has been said that SquashBusters is like a family. To me, it is much more than that,” said Amado, who will be attending Providence College in the fall. “SquashBusters has been central to every experience I’ve enjoyed, every relationship I’ve benefited from, every goal I’ve set, and every hope I’ve had since I joined four years ago.”

In addition to the fundraising players, fifteen world-class squash professionals came out to the event, including former World No. 1’s Thierry Lincou, Peter Nicol, David Palmer and Jonathon Power, as well as current World No. 8 Amanda Sobhy, who played on the first-ever all-women’s Derby team, Unbridled.

“The Derby makes the SquashBusters program possible. It is by far our most significant annual fundraising effort,” said Greg Zaff, SquashBusters CEO and founder. “We are sincerely grateful to all of the players and fundraisers who are the engine that drives the event’s success each year.”


SquashBusters Bids Fond Farewell to Longstanding Board Members

outgoing board members
Greg Zaff, center, celebrated the contributions of outgoing Board members (L to R) Lenny Bernheimer, Sandy Tierney, Amrit Kanwal, Tom Poor and Errin Siagel.
new board members
New Board members (L to R) Henry Manice, Bill Paine and David Antonelli.

On Tuesday, June 21, the SquashBusters Board of Directors gathered at a favorite restaurant – Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley – to celebrate, honor and express their thanks to five outgoing members: Lenny Bernheimer, Sandy Tierney, Errin Siagel, Tom Poor and Amrit Kanwal. These generous individuals are passing the torch after a collective term of almost 100 years.

It is impossible to adequately capture their contributions, both to SquashBusters and to Greg. They have invested thousands of hours of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support. All in, they have served as Board Chair, Development Chair, Investment Chair, Treasurer/Finance Chair and Derby Chair. They were there at the University Club when the idea for SquashBusters and urban squash was first brought into being. They were there when SquashBusters leased its first van, graduated its first student, and deposited its first donation.

They presided over the construction of our youth center at Northeastern University, our Lawrence expansion and our current plans to build a home in Providence with Moses Brown School. They have mentored students and staff and are responsible for the Derby growing to become the $1m+ MFS SquashBusters Derby. The list carries on and words cannot describe the depth of the contribution that these five amazing people have made to SquashBusters. Thank you Lenny, Sandy, Errin, Tom, and Amrit!

The Board also extends a warm welcome to its four newest members: Philomena Mantella, David Antonelli, Bill Paine and Henry Manice.

Philomena is Senior Vice President/CEO of Northeastern’s Global Network. She has and will continue to play a key role in supporting our vital partnership with the university, and she is integrally involved with Northeastern’s Torch Scholars and Foundation Year programs, which have paved the way for several SQB graduates to enroll in Northeastern. David is Vice Chairman of Investment at MFS. He has been tremendously supportive of the Derby and will lend his expertise to our Expansion Committee’s facility work in Lawrence and Providence. Bill, a partner at WilmerHale, is a member of the Lawrence Leadership Council, a MashUp player, and a generous contributor and fundraiser for the program. Henry, co-founder of Mighty Squirrel, is a MashUp player and a generous donor. Henry plans to get very involved in helping with our Providence expansion and also intends to be a mentor to our students.


2016 MashUp Sets Fundraising Record for SquashBusters Lawrence


MashUp winners
The Andover Academics reclaimed their title as MashUp champions after surrendering to Merrimack Volley last year.
Wael El Hindi playing at MashUp
Egypts Wael El-Hindi, former World Number 7, represents Merrimack Volley against Andover Academics Clinton Leeuw, current star of South Africa.
Andover Academics’ Robert Manice shows off his plate with SQB Lawrence Executive Director Dora Lubin.

In its fourth year as the primary fundraiser for SquashBusters Lawrence, the MashUp, presented by Anbaric, mixed up some of the most generous squash and paddle tennis players of the Merrimack Valley on Sunday December 11th for a festive, fun and financially successful outing to help Lawrence students. Both Brooks School and the North Andover Country Club reprised their roles as generous host sites, while more than 100 players, guests, sponsors and friends contributed to a record setting fundraising total of $285,000.

All four 15-player teams were led by an elite squash and paddle pro, with South African star Clinton Leeuw and paddle pro extraordinaire Johan du Randt heading captain Jon Karlen’s Andover Academics, former World no. 7 Wael El Hindi and Genius Chidzikwe leading captain Bruce Landay’s Merrimack Volley, World Champion David Palmer and paddle pro Thomas Nolan helming captain Henry White’s Essex County Nicks and newcomer and former Intercollegiate Champion Ramit Tandon and Scott Staniar taking the reins of captain Ross Elkin’s Lawrence Legion. Team rosters were filled out by seven fundraising amateurs, a SquashBusters boy and girl and a player from either Brooks or Phillips Academy, the school partners that host the program during the school year.

Many thanks to the four paddle teams to joining the MashUp this year, representing Concord Country Club, The Country Club, Dedham Country and Polo Club, North Andover Country Club, and Weston Golf Club.

Two-time champions Andover Academics returned to the podium after a year’s absence, staked to a nearly insurmountable 12-0 lead after the morning’s paddle play. The Academics glided to a winning score of 27 points while last year’s champions the Merrimack Volley clung to a one point margin to notch second place over a late surging Lawrence Legion which advanced 5 points in the third and last round of squash to settle at 21 points. The Nicks had to bench honorary team member Hope Prockop due to injury, a devastating blow to any lineup, but managed 14 points to finish just short of the bronze medal.

SquashBusters Lawrence Executive Director Dora Lubin orchestrated the highly successful MashUp once again, overseeing a battalion of volunteers and students, two venues and an outstanding youth speaker, Daisy Deleon, who riveted the crowd at the NACC paddle hut with her moving and inspiring remarks about friendship and self-reliance. SquashBusters Founder Greg Zaff brought the day to a fitting close by awarding the Merrimack Volley the Golden Mill Award, the team fundraising trophy, and thanking each and every participant, whether as a MashUp player, a volunteer or a donor, for their generosity and passion to see a better future for every student SquashBusters is blessed to embrace.

If you would like to learn more about the MashUp, please visit the event website – and please check out the video below to meet some SQB Lawrence students, parents, supporters and staff!

SquashBusters: A Team, A Family, A Community

A SquashBusters Alum Sets Out to Change the World

SQB Alum Ashley Garrett interned at the White House, where she met President Obama, Vice President Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Growing up in Mattapan and Roxbury, SquashBusters alum Ashley Garrett always felt that through SQB and other programs, she benefited from access to opportunities that many in her community weren’t as lucky to have. Months away from graduating with a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from American University, Ashley is nothing short of accomplished, and she can’t wait to give back through a career in public service.

Ashley joined SquashBusters in 2004 as an eighth-grader at Timilty Middle School and stuck with the program all the way through her high school graduation. It wasn’t just squash that kept her involved, but the varied opportunities and new people she was exposed to as a SquashBusters student. Her admiration for Greg and love for community service are what she remembers most fondly. They had a powerful influence on her decision to follow a path of public service in her studies and her work.

After graduating from high school, Ashley enrolled at Wesleyan University, and applied for a rigorous, multidisciplinary special major called the College of Social Studies. Ashley was not the typical applicant: she struggled in her writing and was a student athlete with a demanding schedule, but she was accepted because of the same strengths that SquashBusters saw in her: resilience, persistence, and a willingness to work hard and keep trying no matter what. Of the 30 candidates in the program, Ashley was one of 22 who finished, and she was one of only six women in the program. Her studies at Wesleyan took Ashley to Denmark, where she learned about European health programs and how they offered solutions to similar challenges facing the health system in the US, prompting her to write a thesis on the subject.

Driven to create change, Ashley has always believed strongly in giving people equal access to resources and felt that systemic issues have to be addressed from the top. This passion took her to American University, where she threw herself into opportunities that would give her an in-depth understanding of the federal government, the healthcare system, and challenges facing the American public. In her second semester of grad school, Ashley joined the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence as an intern, reading and responding to mail related to foreign policy and defense, listening to stories of everyday citizens and helping them get the resources they needed, and giving White House tours. She even submitted her college thesis to the Office of the Vice President as part of her participation in a working group on health policy.

In her capacity as an intern, Ashley had the opportunity to meet President Obama and Vice President Biden, but it was her encounter with First Lady Michelle Obama that left the greatest impact. Ashley listened to Mrs. Obama talk about resilience, education, and the importance of leadership and public service – themes that resonated with Ashley personally, as they are woven throughout her own upbringing and educational journey.

As Ashley winds down her studies and prepares for life after graduate school, she reflects with gratitude on the opportunities that she has been given throughout her life – SquashBusters included. We are so proud to see what she has accomplished and how her grit and resilience continue to propel her forward, and we can’t wait to see how she changes the world.


Behind the Derby: The Many Contributions of the Nimicks

John and Kate Nimick
John and Kate Nimick

As the 2017 MFS SquashBusters Derby fast approaches – mark your calendars for May 5 and 6! – it seems apropos for SquashBusters to extend a heartfelt thank you to the husband and wife team of John and Kate Nimick.

Most Derby aficionados can quickly point to the phenomenal contributions that both John and Kate have made towards our signature fundraising event. John has been the brains behind the Derby moving north of $1 million. He brainstormed the Derby’s expansion to doubles, has recruited all of the pros, and partnered with Greg these last several years in securing each and every one of the amateur players and fundraisers. As founder and team captain of the all-women’s team Unbridled, Kate singlehandedly solved the Derby’s ten-year challenge of involving more women in the event.

Unbridled is about to saddle up for its second SquashBusters Derby. With Amanda Sobhy, current world number 6, and her sister Sabrina, ready to run, the team promises to be a competitive juggernaut. Intercontinental Real Estate, New Balance and Thermo Fisher Scientific are already lined up as major team sponsors, meaning Unbridled will more than hold its own in the fundraising race as well.

What people may not know is that John and Kate have been in the trenches with SquashBusters since the program’s very start. John served as SquashBusters’ first Board Chair when the program was nothing short of a pipe dream, with $20 in the bank and twenty trusting students on the roster. Kate ran an academic station at Hemenway Gym in 1995, when the very first team was trying out. Years later, when SquashBusters had matured and expanded to Northeastern University, she served as Program Director – the most challenging and important role in the organization. Over 20+ years, John and Kate have spent countless  hours helping SquashBusters kids grow as athletes and students. They also have been tremendously generous financial supporters of SquashBusters.

The friendship between John, Kate and Greg goes way back to the days of The Squash Club in Allston in the 1980s, when John and Greg were training partners and competitors on the World Professional Squash Tour. Kate kept them both humble as the fittest and strongest of the three. Their bond – the same kind of closeness that SquashBusters tries to foster among its students – has truly been responsible for so much of the joy and success of our special program, and of its aging, but still devoted, leader.

“Since we first talked with Greg on our front lawn about his idea for this program – where we probably told him he was crazy – being a part of SquashBusters has been a privilege,” says John. “We support Greg’s vision that all kids should be nurtured and supported, regardless of the circumstances they come from. We’re looped in for the long haul.”

Thank you so much, John and Kate, for everything you have done for SquashBusters.

The 11th Annual MFS SquashBusters Derby will take place on Friday, May 5 at the University Club of Boston and Saturday, May 6 at SquashBusters. Visit the event website to learn how you can support SquashBusters’ big event.


SquashBusters Student Spotlight: Ife Asere

Ife with mentor
Ife Asere, SquashBusters ’17, and her college mentor, Katie Fagan

Senior year of high school is a busy and challenging time for everyone, but that didn’t stop Ife Asere, SquashBusters ’17, from signing on as captain of the Boston high school girls’ team this year. In fact, taking on new challenges and persevering are a big part of Ife’s character – something that’s been reinforced time and time again over her six years in the program.

Ife joined SquashBusters as a seventh grader, because she wanted to try a new and different sport. Since then, she’s built close relationships with the staff and her fellow students, moved up the squash ladder, traveled to new cities and given back to her community.

As the girls’ team captain, Ife is tasked with pumping up her teammates before matches and giving pep talks and motivation when other players are down. It means a lot to Ife to provide this helping hand to her fellow students, because it’s something she’s also benefited from many times at SquashBusters.

“My freshman year, I was not doing well in school and I almost had to quit squash,” she recounts. “I didn’t want to lose what I had here, so that helped me turn things around. Luckily, with SquashBusters, I never felt like I had to do it by myself. I had tutors to help with my homework, and I could always talk to the staff when I needed support. They’re always there for me.”

As a senior, Ife is especially grateful for the intensive support SquashBusters provides with the college application process. SQB staff members Mikhail and Eileen, along with her college mentor, Katie Fagan, have provided help with everything from identifying potential schools to applying for scholarships. “SquashBusters is the reason I’m here today, applying to college,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to get that level of support anywhere else.”

She is excited to take the next step in her journey – college – and work toward her dream of becoming an oncologist. At this point, she has already received acceptances from Curry College, Dean, College, New England College, Roger Williams University, the University of Connecticut, UMass Amherst and UMass Dartmouth. With her grit and determination and everything she’s learned from SquashBusters in her toolbox, we have no doubt that she will excel wherever she ends up.

When asked what advice she would give to younger SquashBusters students, Ife had plenty of wisdom to share. “Stick with it, even when it’s hard or you’re not at the top of the ladder. SquashBusters is more than just squash. It’s lifelong friendship and a great network. And always come to practice, even if you’re feeling down. You might come to squash sad, but you’ll always leave happy.”


Teaming Up for Urban Teams

student playing
Snyder Amazan, SquashBusters ’19, dives for a shot at Urban Team Nationals.
GU-15 finalists
The GU-15 team took second in their division

In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, January 14, more than seventy SquashBusters students boarded two Greyhound buses in Lawrence and Boston and set off to the City of Brotherly Love for the prestigious honor of playing in the thirteenth annual Urban Team Nationals (UTN) tournament.

Hosted by the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), UTN is a weekend-long competition that gives students the chance to play alongside their teammates and meet hundreds of their peers from 18 other urban squash programs across the country.

This year’s event brought together 450 students from 19 programs, with players travelling from places as far as Cleveland, Detroit and San Diego to compete on courts at Drexel University, the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, SquashSmarts and the University of Pennsylvania.

The tournament kicked off with some inspiring remarks from Monete Johnson (SquashBusters ’07 and Trinity College ’11) who talked about her fond memories at the first-ever UTN in 2004, when there were four programs and less than 100 students. From there, it was back-to-back squash for the next three days, with SquashBusters competing across all eight divisions. Competition was fierce, but SquashBusters’ Girls Under 15-B and Girls Under 17-B groups both clinched finalist spots in their divisions! More results can be found below.

Between matches, students took some time to explore Philadelphia, visiting iconic sites like the Liberty Bell, City Hall, the Art Museum and the Rocky statue. NUSEA also hosted several exciting off-court activities. In the academic essay contest, SquashBusters Boston freshman Marangela James won the U-15 division with her essay answering the question: “What would you do if you were President for one day?” In addition, Monete joined several other alumni – Jacinthe Cooke (SquashBusters ’06 and Smith College ’10) and Mikhail Darlington (SquashBusters ’07 and Temple University ’11) – on a Q&A panel alongside graduates from other programs who talked to current urban squash students about what to expect in college and the professional world.

Year after year, UTN continues to be a meaningful experience and a fabulous opportunity for our students. “UTN gives our students the chance to earn their way to something special and have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete on a national platform,” says Boston Program Director Myra Sack. “The tournament harnesses the power of sport to build a community of young people who become excited to learn and grow, get comfortable on a college campus and begin to imagine the real possibility of attending one, and who are inspired and guided by their peers to continue to set meaningful and concrete life goals.”

UTN rotates locations every year between Philadelphia, New York, and right here in Boston. Last year, SquashBusters hosted, and next year, the tournament will be held in New York. We can’t wait to do it all again when the time comes!

Competition Results

BU-15 A Team 4th Place, A Division – Joshua Agesta, Oscar Eldh Jahn, Chris Garcia, Anthony Guzman, Colin Ye

BU-15 B Team 3rd Place, B Division – Raudy Bonilla, Abdiel Ixlej, Phillip Kutta Jr., Thomas Le, Emmanuel Rivera

GU-15 A Team 3rd Place, A Division – Xaria Durocher, Brenda Hernandez, Marangela James,  Valerie Rosario, June Zhang

GU-15 B Team 2nd Place, B Division – Yeribel Fermin, Cynthia Gomez, Lilian Interiano, Winter Jones, Paula Villarruel

GU-17 A Team 3rd Place, A Division – Angela Cao, Kat Leiva, Tina Jagmohan, Charlenny Perez-Pena, Beverly Vo

GU-17 B Team 2nd Place, B Division- Elizangi Araujo, Micheka Fenelon, Sayuri Omura, Chantal Perez-Pena, Ariany Terrero

BU-19 A Team 4th Place, A Division -Antar Jimenez, George Montero, Ravi Rao, Pablo Rodriguez, Jose Soto

GU-19 A Team 4th Place, A Division – Ife Asere, Heyssis Castillo, Princess Ojukwu, Tara Reed-Smith, Toni Woods