What a Year It’s Been!

From pods, masks, and social distancing to virtual programming, online tutoring, yoga, and pickleball, and through lots and lots and lots of COVID testing and “getting creative”, SquashBusters never shut down. We remained laser-focused on serving our students and their families. And while our traditional programming took a back-seat this year, we spent the weeks and months strengthening our bonds with each other and to our communities. SQB is stronger for having weathered this storm together. We are excited to take what we learned this year about determination, resourcefulness, imagination, and friendship into a new and even stronger chapter. Thank you to all who supported us in making this possible. We hope you enjoy a look back at what the year has brought.


CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CLASS OF 2021


Hats off to the SQB Class of 2021 Boston (L) and Lawrence (R)

Despite a senior year like no other, all 34 members of the Class of 2021 – 22 from SQB Boston and 12 from SQB Lawrence – graduated high school this June; 100% have secured meaningful post-secondary plans, including four-year and two-year colleges and universities, apprenticeships, and military service.

SquashBusters celebrated the hard work and accomplishments of the seniors with a trip to Cape Cod for the Boston students, and a bowling and dinner evening for the Lawrence seniors. Congratulations to all our graduates!


BOSTON


The Honor Roll Dinner, snow tubing, and horseback riding were a few of the ways
Boston staff kept our students engaged and connected. 

On June 16th and 17th SquashBusters Boston celebrated the end to a challenging yet rewarding year with our annual community gathering and award ceremony. The event certainly looked different from years past, but the energy and love felt by all, was if anything, stronger than ever. This year we committed to preserving a space for in-person community building as much and as often as was safely possible. At the same time, we expanded our virtual opportunities, so our entire community felt connected. We were able to build new types of relationships as we explored different activities in smaller groups and got creative with programming. Our students were able to share some hidden talents with their peers – cooking, yoga, meditation, gaming – and act as leaders and experts.

The introduction of more field trips and of student interest clubs were certainly highlights from this year. We had the opportunity to go skiing and snow tubing, horseback riding, hiking, and to amusement parks. Our graduating seniors even spent a fun-filled weekend together on Cape Cod just ahead graduation. As we necessarily took a pause from playing squash for much of the year, we played soccer, frisbee, basketball, tennis, and badminton to stay active. And when we were able to get back on court, the excitement and determination to train hard picked right back up, leading into our first ever SquashBusters Individual Tournament, where many students had their very first opportunity to compete.

And though, we faced challenges as a community, we came together to support one another in times of grief or uncertainty. Through it all, students cited the close contact with peers and staff and the opportunities for normalcy as an anchor and a bright light.


LAWRENCE


In Lawrence, it was all about the field trips – to the NE Aquarium, to Boston
to play squash, and to Skateland for some roller rink fun.

Without our typical access to local squash courts and classrooms, SquashBusters Lawrence took advantage of the circumstances to take students out of the city to deliver new and varied opportunities. This meant a focus on weekend trips around Massachusetts to places like the New England Aquarium, Skateland, Laster Tag, and Six Flags. Though this was a departure from our typical programming, the time spent traveling and participating in these new experiences strengthened the team and provided weekly highlights for our students during the isolation of the pandemic.

Not forgetting about improving their squash game, students kept their racquet skills sharp by picking up a range of new sports and spent significant time playing pickleball, badminton, and ping pong wherever we could find space. This, in addition to fitness and agility sessions to stay fit kept our athletes prepared for their eventual return to squash. Once court access became available at SquashBusters Boston, staff and students jumped at the opportunity and, despite epic battles against Boston rush hour traffic, traveled to the city multiple times per week to get precious time back on court.

During the times this year when in person programming wasn’t an option, we stayed connected virtually. In addition to weekly clubs focused on cooking, art, fitness, gaming and Asian culture, students could join post-secondary information sessions, resumé support, tutoring and more events all hosted on Zoom.

Despite the changes, SQB Lawrence’s focus remained on building community and supporting each other. The 2020-2021 program year provided opportunity to explore new interests and spend time together in different and exciting ways. While we’re hopeful we’ll be able to return to more “normal” programming next year, we’re excited to continue implementing the strongest elements of COVID programming to make SQB Lawrence even better!


PROVIDENCE

 
Students were able to keep their squash game strong,
serve their community, and stay fit.

Time flies when you are having fun, or so they say. 2020-2021 was difficult and for many of our students it felt like a long year, but at SquashBusters we provided our students amazing opportunities that helped the year fly by. When students were stuck at home with nothing to do, they looked forward to the Zoom calls and virtual get togethers. They took on yoga, learned different types of exercises, joined Q & A sessions with top professional squash players, learned how to cook, draw, paint… the list goes on and on.

Once infection rates reduced and vaccinations increased, even more doors were opened for our students. We kept them busy with squash practices, walks and a clean-up at a park in Providence, where they not only learned the importance of keeping their communities clean, they also enjoyed being able to hang out with their friends. Whether it was a trip to Newport or random bowling games, they mostly just missed the opportunity to be together in person.

Despite this challenging year, there were many bright spots. COVID forced us to think creatively and to appreciate one another. It made the SquashBusters Providence community and culture stronger. The students built meaningful relationships with their teammates and staff and appreciated each other as never before. The students did not let COVID hold them back; it made them stronger. Our first-ever class of high-schoolers have become leaders and role models to the younger students, and they have become more confident in themselves. Like most of us, COVID allowed our kids find out about themselves and what matters to them. One of the biggest takeaways was that they love SquashBusters. It is a place that they want to come to be with their friends, with the staff, and with our great volunteers. It is a space that they can call their second home.


POST-SECONDARY SUCCESS

Alumni get together for some friendly competition.

Each spring brings lots of celebration to the SquashBusters Post-Secondary Program, and this year is no different! This year, 10 SquashBusters-Boston students graduated from post-secondary opportunities: 7 students received their Bachelor’s degree, 2 students graduated with Associate’s degrees, and 1 student graduated from YearUp. Each student is soaring to new heights as they head off to graduate school or join the workforce across a variety of fields and industries, including education, finance, culinary arts, health policy, and criminal justice.

The Post-Secondary team worked hard this year to expand our service offerings and respond to the unique circumstances brought on by COVID, including allowing students access to classrooms, wi-fi, and quiet workspaces in Boston and Lawrence and court access in Boston. We also invested in our SQB Career Services to enhance employment outcomes for all SQB students and alumni. At each of the fundraising events – the MashUp, the Rumble and the Derby – we hosted career development workshops, which allowed our supporters to interact with students in new and impactful ways. In May, ten students participated in a 1-week intensive workshop on professional communications and skill building in preparation for their summer internships. Alums even got in a little squash (pictured above)!

We also launched SQB Connect, our new career, networking, and mentoring platform designed to connect SQB students and alumni to mentoring support and employment opportunities by leveraging the incredible power of the SQB network. In addition to facilitating 1:1 connections between students and users on the platform, the SQB Connect Jobs and Internships Board allows individuals in the SQB network to post opportunities that our students and alumni can easily apply to.

Thank you to the many volunteers, Career Coaches, and corporate partners who participated in a career workshop, provided summer internship opportunities to post-secondary students, and/or connected with a student or alumni to edit a resume or share information about their career path. We’re excited about the future of SQB Career Services and the Post-Secondary Program and we know none of this would be possible without your support and dedication.