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

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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.