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.”
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