SquashBusters Alum Named Fulbright Scholar
SquashBusters alum Ben Osajie believes education is the great equalizer. A self-described “kid from humble beginnings,” who was just awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Ben has seen firsthand just how it can change lives and open doors to opportunity.
A recent graduate of Connecticut College, where he double majored in Psychology and Sociology while playing on the varsity squash team all four years, Ben will be setting out to Thailand in the fall to teach English to primary or secondary school students. After his brother studied abroad in the country and told him about the inequities he saw as a public health researcher, Ben was inspired to learn about the educational systems there. It won’t be his first foray into international education. During his junior year, Ben studied in Perugia, Italy, where he also taught English to high school students.
Ultimately, Ben would like to work in the American education system and help design school curricula in a way that is more equitable to marginalized communities. “We’re the most prominent country in the world, but our education system doesn’t reflect that,” he says. “There are definitely things they do better in Europe, and I’d like to see how some of that could be implemented here.”
Ben credits SquashBusters with instilling in him a desire to make the world a better place. “When you’re doing community service on Saturdays, you don’t really think about what that means in a bigger sense,” he says. “But looking back, I realized it taught me that anything you can do to give back to your community is important.”
In college, he put those words into action as a mentor in the ALANA (African American, Latino/a, Asian American and Native American) Sisters and Brothers program, floor governor, and an active member of the schools LGBTQIA Center.
As a SquashBusters alum, he’s stayed closely connected to the program, working as a camp counselor at the Middle School Summer Slam and volunteering whenever he can. Before heading off on his Fulbright adventure, he’s spending the summer in Atlanta, where he has been working as an Operations Associate for Teach for America through the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) Career Connections program. He’s excited to see the urban squash network grow as more and more programs continue to crop up, inspired by SquashBusters.
“The beautiful thing about SquashBusters is that it makes you whole – I owe everything to the program,” Ben says. “I still remember every staff member and all of the little things they would do for us, like walking us to the train station, because they cared so much about every student. I think about those things now, and I’m so thankful.”
#BetterMakeRoom for the SquashBusters class of 2017!
SquashBusters is so proud of most recent class of program graduates – 100% of whom are heading to college in the fall!
Each of these students has put in a great deal of hard work, dedicating themselves to this program over the course of some of the most important years of their lives. It is no surprise that they have grown into the accomplished young men and women they are today.
The SquashBusters class of 2017 will be heading to the following schools:
Bridgewater State University
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
College of the Holy Cross
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
Mount Holyoke College
Framingham State University
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
SquashBusters asks a lot of its students each year, and senior year is no exception. Along with their mentors, SquashBusters staff, and their families, the class of 2017 spent countless hours putting their college applications in order – from editing their essays to filling out supplements to filing FAFSA and other financial aid forms. Collectively, the seniors received an astounding 79 acceptances and earned an incredible $1.25 million in financial aid.
Each year, SquashBusters makes a conscious effort to ensure that every student is able to access a high-quality college education that is also affordable for them and their families. On average, 80% of the class of 2017’s financial need was met through grants and scholarships, and as a result, they took out an average of $4,862 in loans – far less than the national average of $7,525.
“This class has worked incredibly hard this year – and all of the years they’ve been in this program – and they are heading off to some really great places,” said Mikhail Darlington, SquashBusters College and Alumni Success Manager. “They’ve overcome so much and we are excited to see what the future holds for all of them.”
Of course, their graduation from the program does not mean that they leave the SquashBusters family. The SquashBusters College and Alumni Success team stays in regular contact with each college-enrolled alum, to help them navigate the big transition to college life and take on any obstacles that may stand in their way.
Luckily, they have quite a few role models to look up to in that department. Thirteen SquashBusters alumni have graduated from college this spring:
MassBay Community College
Mount Holyoke College
Bay State College
There is no shortage of big plans among this group – Ben’s Fulbright Scholarship is just one of the many exciting plans ahead. Just a sample: Darwyn is taking on a supervisor role at JetBlue, Zoe will be working as an assistant paralegal at Fragomen, an immigration business firm in Atlanta; Amy and Steven will be joining the SquashBusters staff as Middle School Academic Coordinator and Middle School Squash Coordinator, respectively, and Vania will be pursuing a Master’s degree in American Studies at Brown University.
Summer Opportunities Heat Up at SquashBusters
This summer, 90 SquashBusters students will set out to work, learn, volunteer, and play squash at nearly 50 sites around the world.
Thanks to incredible partners like NUSEA, Summer Search and the Lewis Family Foundation, our students have incredible opportunities to expand their horizons during the summer months. Here are just some of the experiences SquashBusters youth are taking part in this summer:
- 5 students will be expanding their minds by participating in summer academic programs at four prestigious preparatory schools: Hotchkiss School in Salisbury, Connecticut; Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey; Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts; and Phillip Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.
- 8 students will head out on an interstate road trip to Gambier, Ohio, to compete in the NUSEA Midwest Championship at Kenyon College.
- 4 students will be embarking on the NUSEA Citizenship Tour, a highly selective 8-day academic and athletic trip from New York City to Washington DC with a stop in Philadelphia. Past participants have met luminaries like Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt and U.S. Senator Al Franken.
- 2 students will gain valuable work and leadership experience by completing paid internships at Grand Circle Travel and traveling to Kenya and Tanzania to complete service projects, through the Lewis Family Foundation’s Next Generation Leaders program.
- 2 students will see the world while giving back on Summer Search service trips to Costa Rica and Florida.
- 4 students will train with former North American number 1 squash professional Mark Talbott at Stanford University through NUSEA’s Stanford Summer Squad.
- 2 students will be completing internships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
- 20 students will be attending sleepaway camps like Camp Dudley in Westport, NY; Camp Lawrence in Lake Winnipesaukee, NH; Camp Nokomis in Laconia, NH; Camp Woodstock in Woodstock Valley, CT and West End House Camps in Parsonfield, ME.
Even more students will be engaged in other exciting experiences, including SquashBusters Boston’s Middle School Summer Slam and SquashBusters Lawrence’s summer program at Phillips Academy. These opportunities allow our students to expand their horizons and gain valuable life experience that will help them in school and in their future careers. We love watching our students push themselves out of their comfort zones and throw themselves into these new experiences.
SquashBusters Sets Down Roots in Providence
SquashBusters Providence is readying for takeoff. The facility is well into construction and is scheduled for a November opening. Housing 12 courts, 2 classrooms, office space and locker rooms, this will be one of the premier squash and education centers in all of New England. And of course, SQB Providence will have a free home for the next 100 years, allowing the program to change the lives of thousands of Providence kids.
It’s hard to capture how special this opportunity is for SQB. We are partnering with Moses Brown School, a school whose Quaker values of civic engagement, integrity and hard work, social justice and caring for others align closely with our own. Moses Brown will own and operate the facility at its expense, in return for a one-time large capital investment from SQB. Together, we will unite our students on the court, with academic learning and real-life service to the community.
Caitlin Barrett has just been named the site’s Executive Director. Caitlin comes to SQB with a decade of hands-on experience working with urban kids in sports-based youth development. Most recently, she spent eight years as National Director of Training with Up2Us Sports , and she has also occupied leadership positions at America SCORES and City Year. Caitlin shared her optimism about all that lies ahead, saying “I couldn’t be more excited about leading SQB Providence. As we approach the official kickoff, we are committed to building something that reflects all that makes Providence unique and that brings new resources and opportunity to kids, families, and the community as a whole.”
An important group of key backers is the SQB Providence Leadership Council. Led by Habib Gorgi, members include Julie Andrews, Perry Buroker, Vijay Chitnis, Mike Costello, Peter Gemma, Doug Jacobs, and Marshall Votta. The Council is helping SQB meet key stakeholders, community leaders and prospective supporters of the program.
This coming fall, we will partner with two Providence public middle schools and hire two mission-inspired staff to lead the year-round squash and academic program. Tryouts for SQB will be open to any 6th/7th grade student at our partner schools with the message that SQB is looking for young people defined by character, hard work and a willingness to treat every person with respect and appreciation. SQB Providence is expected to embark upon its life-changing adventure in early 2018 beginning with these 30 students and eventually growing to become a 100+ student 6th-12th grade program complete with high school and college counseling, college scholarship support, and an alumni association.