A SquashBusters Alum Sets Out to Change the World
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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