I had intended to kick off this newsletter with stories of joy, resilience, hope and triumph over adversity that we’ve experienced with our students and each other over the last few months. I wanted you to know that a quarter century into this work, I have learned that nothing can break the bond of SQB love that our staff and students share with each other. I have celebrated the extraordinary generosity of our Board and our supporters. And I am proud and motivated about the work SQB does every day to bring greater racial and economic justice to the world.
But, the killings in Atlanta and yesterday in Boulder, have over-taken these sentiments, and I find myself once again angry and saddened by the racism, injustice and pervasive gun violence in this country. We condemn both attacks in the strongest terms. While not explicit, it seems likely that in Atlanta the ugliness and hatred was directed at the AAPI community. We will fight for the members of the AAPI community, just as we strive to do every day for the BIPOC community, and we commit to show up, listen and learn from all marginalized communities in our on-going efforts to be anti-racist.
In the wake of events this past summer, SQB established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee comprised of staff, alumni and board members and charged with the task of recommending concrete, achievable and important steps SQB needs to take to improve as an organization. Today, this work seems more important than ever.
Very much related to DEI, SquashBusters has made miraculous progress in its ambitious goal to build our Lawrence Program a place-based home in the City of Lawrence, as part of a larger urban revitalization project with Lawrence Community Works that will include affordable housing, green space and community recreation.
The usual crowded van rides, boast-drive sessions, and chock-filled calendars of school matches, tournaments, and community service days, have been replaced by Zoom fitness classes and online tutoring, but SQB remains programmatically strong and focused. At every turn, our goal continues to be in-person interactions with our students and we’ve done this hundreds of times over this year in small group PODs and one-on-one get-togethers. We’ve played squash, hiked mountains, skied, skated and snow-tubed, gone apple picking, enjoyed painting, pottery, yoga and much more. We’ve complemented all this with virtual cooking, fitness, social justice, gaming and art and Asian culture clubs. And I promise we haven’t missed a beat supporting our 34 seniors applying to college. Acceptances are pouring in from places like Bates, Trinity, and Johns Hopkins.
I’m so pleased to share this spring newsletter with you. For those who have been most affected by the shocking events in Atlanta and Boulder, please know that we are holding you in our hearts. To all of you, thank you for believing in the power of squash and education to change the world.
Hitting the Slopes
Winter in New England shouldn’t mean the end to our outdoor excursions, so during February school vacation week staff took 26 students from SquashBusters Boston to Nashoba Valley where they had a chance to spend the afternoon snow tubing or skiing. For many students this was their first time participating in either activity and there was great enthusiasm about the chance to try something new and spend time outdoors with their friends! Eleven students and three staff members participated in beginner ski lessons when we arrived so they could learn the ropes of moving, turning, stopping, and even falling with style. While we didn’t make it all the way up the mountain, we had a great time mastering the beginner hill and are hoping to plan a return trip for those who want to progress their new skills. Click here to see a video of our efforts.
Thanks to our generous supporters we were able to fully fund this activity for students and also ensure that everyone had the boots, hats, gloves, snow pants, and other equipment that they needed to have a safe and fun day. And given the ability to effectively social distance, wear masks, and stay outdoors for this trip, we also had the confidence of families to safely hold this event despite a surge in COVID cases at the time. Our ability to be together was severely limited this winter, and this trip was a welcome break from virtual programming. We even had the generous support of a volunteer from Big City Mountaineers who continued to work with beginner skiers on their technique once the lesson portion of the day ended. Overall the trip was a resounding success and students are looking forward to their next chance to hit the slopes!
Business Leaders of Tomorrow
One of SquashBusters Lawrence’s most successful partnerships over the past few years has been with Junior Achievement of New England, a year-long entrepreneurship program that supports high school students through the process of building their own company from the ground up. While typically only a handful of SquashBusters students participate in any given year (you can read about the experience of Johsuar ’20 here), the pandemic created an opportunity for a team comprised exclusively of students from SquashBusters Lawrence. Guided by JA volunteers and staff, 10 SQB Lawrence high schoolers have spent the past several months working closely on weekly zoom meetings to create their own business. Julissa and Rosa, two participants from the SquashBusters Class of 2022, shared their experience starting their own company:
Junior Achievement of Northern New England is an organization that helps educate students about entrepreneurship. It gives us the opportunity to experience real world problems that might occur in a business. We are all interested in the business field and saw that this program was a great opportunity to further educate ourselves about the world of entrepreneurship. We are Hogar, a company that has produced comfortable hoodies from which 15% of the profits will be donated to Lazarus House, an organization in Lawrence that helps families struggling with food insecurity, poverty, and homelessness.
We would greatly appreciate it if you could support our cause, either through the purchase of one of our hoodies on our website here or by spreading the word about Hogar. We only have six weeks and a limited amount of supplies, but with your support our company can grow and evolve, have more products to sell, and give back an even greater portion of the proceeds to our community. Help us with our mission, be a part of the Hogar family, and let’s make home where the heart is through our hoodies.
Calling All Chefs
On January 4th SquashBusters made the difficult decision to return to primarily virtual programming for six weeks due to a surge in COVID cases, but our ever-resourceful staff quickly pivoted and created meaningful virtual club opportunities to keep the students busy and teach them about different topics. Students joined a club fair through Zoom, where they signed up for clubs that they were interested in. They learned how to sketch and paint with the Art Club (view a virtual art show here) and satisfied their need for competition in the Gaming Club. In the Asian Culture Club they watched anime and made ramen from scratch and the Social Justice Club tackled difficult conversations and concluded with a great debate on capitalism vs. socialism.
Finally, we had wildly popular Cooking Club, where we taught the students how to cook meals and even had the students teach the staff. Even though everyone started with different experiences (some had never used a stove or a knife before), by the end, all the students were cooking along and having great fun and great meals. Students made Chicken Alfredo and Broccoli Pasta which they were able to share with their families, and a new world of spices was introduced to many people. One student, Isabel, taught us all to make a family favorite, pastelitos. She even led a class for our donors and players in our annul fundraiser, the Rumble, where she taught everyone how to cook them just like her grandmother does. The recipe is below if you want to give it a try!
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
- Goya Discos Grande -found in freezer section (move from the freezer to the fridge a few hours before you start cooking)
- 1 Pound of 80/20 ground beef
- ½ onion (optional)
- ½ green or red pepper (optional)
- 2 Sazon Season packets
- Goya Adobo Seasoning
- Black Pepper
- 2 Frying/saute pans
- Chop half of the onions and half of the green or red peppers into dice-sized pieces and set aside.
- Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan on medium heat and warm it up.
- Once olive oil is ready, add the ground beef to the pan and start to sauté.
- As beef is cooking, add the onions and peppers to the pan. Add two Sazon packets, salt, black pepper and adobo to taste.
- Remove the ground beef from the heat
- Fill Goya discs with ground beef mixture – add two spoon fills of ground beef in the center of the disc, fold the dough over to create a half circle and use a fork to seal the dough. Make sure the dough is closed tightly so the filling doesn’t seep out when you fry them.
- Add ¾ cup of vegetable oil to a sauté/frying pan on medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the pastelitos to the pan, flip after a minute and fry until golden brown.
- Have a plate ready with napkins to take off the extra oil.
Post-Secondary Stop-Outs (not Drop-Outs)
Myth: Students stop-out because of money or low GPAs.
Reality: Life balance and physical/mental health account for 55% of stop-outs.
The reasons for leaving post-secondary education and for returning are deeply personal and individual. This fact creates a great opportunity for a retention strategy- access to a person who can be an ongoing relational support system – or in SQB terms, our incredible post-secondary team. Corey, Mike, and Sally worked tirelessly with 9 students who had stopped-out this fall, getting them all re-enrolled for the spring semester. Five of them are returning full-time to their 4-year institutions, two to trade school, and two to a two-year program, one enrolling for the first time. So despite a pause in their education, all are hopefully on their way to success and self-sufficiency.
It’s Derby Season
More than 100 supporters, students, staff and professional squash players are saddling up to raise money for SQB and participate in our first ever virtual Derby. Starting on April 16 and lasting until May 1, players will complete challenges to earn points for their team. The harder the challenge, the more points you earn. And since no squash skills are requited this year, many players are choosing to make it a family affair. Please visit the website to support your favorite players and follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see some spirited competition.
Another Successful Derby in the Books
This season at SQB Boston our theme of Discovery and Exploration led us down many exciting and thought-provoking paths. Students worked together in small PODs to pursue new interests and keep moving, while staying safe. Staying true to our core values, we have continued to focus on fitness, character, and community, with a twist. Students have explored new athletic opportunities, from yoga to boxing to kickball to ultimate Frisbee. They have taken advantage of the outdoors with hiking trips, sidewalk art, and paintball battles and we have had important conversations about health equity and access, leadership, nutrition, wellness, and social justice and PODs are creating PSAs about issues that are important to them, facilitating activities about leadership, and educating each other on topics they have explored. To wrap up Season 1, students created presentations of their accomplishments this season (BOASTS) that they shared with their peers at a virtual team celebration.
While more than half of our students have continued to participate in-person, we have also taken to Zoom and FaceTime to ensure our remote students stay connected. Academic success has remained a priority. Staff have worked individually with students to create “schoolwork from home plans” and we have moved our tutoring online as well, which has actually enabled us to offer this opportunity more widely. SQB supporters have led online cooking and yoga classes, and students have taught staff quite a bit about the online gaming world. Through it all, students have continued to keep their squash skills sharp with solo practices and creative new social distance drills, and our high school seniors have kept on track with their college applications, and two seniors received early acceptance to Bates College and Johns Hopkins University!
We also want to give a huge thank you to our partners, who have been amazing during this time. From Northeastern University to Boston Public Schools and everyone in between, everyone involved has worked collaboratively to support access to safe programming for students
None of us knew what to expect when this year started, but we’ve been impressed and heartened by our students enthusiasm for SQB and their willingness to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.
A Note From Our Program Director
Dear SquashBusters Family,
We hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. On March 12th, with the health and safety of our students and community in mind, all three SquashBusters sites made the decision to shut down all programming. While we are not running our typical programming at Northeastern, our commitment to the students and families we work with has not diminished. We are providing multiple opportunities each week for students to participate in remote team meetings, fitness opportunities, and other community building activities. We are also in regular communication with families, checking in on mental and physical health, as well as ensuring students are on top of schoolwork while at home. This, in addition to regular communication with teachers and other community partners is helping us determine the best ways we can continue to serve our student population during this period of quarantine.
With the safety of our students and families foremost in our minds, we will continue to follow the recommendations of local and federal health authorities regarding a return to programming. Regardless of when we can return to normal programming, SquashBusters Boston will continue to dedicate our time and efforts to serving our 145 youth in the city in the best way we know how. Enjoy some highlights from the winter months – we hope we’ll have more to add before too long.
Program Director, Boston
Exciting Results for the Class of 2020
The SQB Boston seniors have been hard at work since June applying to a multitude of post-secondary opportunities. Students attended 8 weekly sessions last summer to work on the various pieces of the application process, and they have continued to meet on this topic twice a week since then. With the support of the college mentors – volunteers from within the SquashBusters network – students received support writing their personal statements, filling out financial aid paperwork, scheduling college visits, and ultimately submitting their applications. In addition to college applications, students also explored different post-secondary employment opportunities and scholarship opportunities.
This year SquashBusters’ twenty-one seniors submitted over 200 applications to more than 50 different colleges. To date they have already received over 90 acceptances. We are excited to announce that five students have already been accepted to and will enroll at Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, and Wesleyan University. We are very proud of the hard work that these students have put in both this year and during the entirety of their high school years, and we are thankful for all of the dedication that the SquashBusters community has exhibited helping these students throughout this process.
A Different Kind of Workout
A huge thank you to Louis Casiano SQB’13 and Elvis Lora, co-directors of Utopia Dance Company, who hosted a series of fun and exciting Salsa and Bachata dance classes for SQB students and parents earlier this winter. Everyone had a great night dancing Salsa, with 13 parents & students learning the basic steps. Students then participated in either two classes of Bachata or Salsa and treated us to a live performance at the end of our T-Week. In addition to dedicated squash players, we definitely have some part-time dancers in our midst. To continue our learning and encourage everyone to stay active, Utopia Dance Company has shared online classes so we can continue dancing together and moving forward. Enjoy some clips on our YouTube Channel or click here if you are interested in trying out a virtual class !
Another Successful Squash Season
In mid-January, the SQB Boston boys’ and girls’ varsity teams traveled to Hartford, CT to play in the 2020 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships held at Trinity College and Wesleyan University. After a few days of training with SQB coaches and Nick Taylor, a former professional player, hopes were high and our students were anxious to get the tournament started. The girls’ varsity team, which was originally seeded 13-16 in Division 2, showed an immense amount of grit and determination, coming away as the consolation winner. This means that the girls are currently ranked 25th in the entire country! The boys’ varsity team, which was seeded 13-16 in Division 3, also showed that they were not to be trifled with, having close 4-3 losses on three separate occasions. The boys eventually finished 12th beating their original seed. This tournament provided a first opportunity for a number of students to compete in a national championship of this scale and to come together as a team in this way.
In early March, 55 SquashBusters Boston students competed in the 18th Urban Team Nationals in New Haven, CT. Hosted annually by Squash and Education Alliance (SEA), the tournament took place at Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall with 88 teams representing 20 urban squash programs from across the country. For many of our middle school students and some high school students, this tournament was their first overnight opportunity. Despite some nervous jitters during their first match, everyone managed their wins and losses with a calm and composed demeanor by the end of first game. Our students were also eager to display their squash skills by taking advantage of empty courts that were unused between matches, trying to squeeze in as many free plays with students from other programs as possible and forming new friendships. The weekend was a huge success overall. There were some big wins, including the national championship title that our Division A HS girls team were able to capture after a 3-2 nail-biting finals against SquashHaven. As always, everyone displayed strong sportsmanship on and off the courts and it was definitely a weekend to remember.
Due to the growing COVID-19 crisis, SQB is compelled to postpone the Derby.
It is a most tenuous time for non-profits endeavoring to stay afloat financially. We realize that it is a difficult time for all of you as well. If in the comings weeks, you find yourself in a position to remain a generous contributor to the Derby and SQB, your gift will never be more appreciated or matter more.
Click HERE to support an individual player or a team, or click on the donate button on this page to make a general donation to SQB.
We wish you all good health.
Seniors Are College Bound!
For the fifth time in as many years SquashBusters is proud to announce that all of the graduating senior class will be enrolling in college. We are extremely proud of all the hard work they have done and are excited to see them take this next step.
The list of schools below reflects the drive and determination that this special group of students has brought to the classroom and to the squash courts over their years in the program. From the time they entered in seventh grade these students were exposed to college campuses through college visits and tournaments. Through weekly academic sessions and various workshops they were provided with critical thinking tools that will help them tackle any problem that may arise on their academic journey. And SquashBusters’ focus on community service and health has prepared them to be highly engaged members of their community and beyond.
As seniors, students were able to capitalize on all that hard work and make higher education a reality. With the help of Mikhail Darlington, Manager or Post-Secondary Access and Success, and Sally Rowland, Program Associate, and the support of their college mentors, seniors persevered through the extensive college application process with great success. They were tasked with writing a compelling personal statement, formulating balanced and challenging lists of schools, and filling out countless hours of application and verification forms. But the results were worth the hard work – in addition to the acceptances, an average of 85% of the cost of attendance is covered by grants of scholarships.
“This class was a very special class. Their willingness to go the extra mile when they had so much going on in their academic and personal lives speaks volumes” said Mikhail. “No matter what challenge arose, they were always ready to fight through it. And I think that will reflect the amazing people they will become”.
We are proud to say that next year the class of 2019 will be attending the following schools:
Bunker Hill Community College
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
Bridgewater State University
|YULIELIAN CEPEDA RODRIGUEZ
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
|MEI RUAN JUAN
UMass – Amherst
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
UMass – Boston
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Once they graduate, however, their involvement with SquashBusters does not end. SQB recognizes that a successful graduate is one that is able enter society with all the skills necessary to thrive. Corey Schafer, Director of College and Alumni Success, remains in regular contact with each college-enrolled alum. She assists them in navigating the life-altering transition to college and helps them access resources they need to complete their journey. This year we have eleven graduates who have completed that journey and are off to start a new one as they enter their careers.
Below are the SQB alumni who graduated from college this year:
|NELSMARIE MATOS ARROYO
St. Lawrence University
UMass – Amherst
Mass Bay Community College
Roger Williams University
UMass – Boston
UMass – Boston
Bunker Hill Community College
Continuing their commitment to education that they developed early on at SquashBusters, the following alumni will enroll in graduate school this fall:
Simmons College, Master of Nursing
Clark University, Master of Business Administration
MA College of Pharmacy, Doctor of Pharmacy
Brown University, Masters of American Studies
Harvard University, School of Law
We are so proud of all our graduates and can’t wait to hear about the next stage of their journeys.
A Year of Great Squash!
The SquashBusters Boston squash program continued to improve and experience success during the 2018-2019 program year. In addition to internal squash practices and challenge matches, SQB Boston students participated in 64 external competitions – 42 matches and 22 tournaments. These opportunities brought students to new cities such as New York and Washington DC, and to colleges and universities such as Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan, and Yale. High school students received an average of 8 competitive opportunities during the program year, and produced impressive results.
In their second year representing Boston Public Schools, SQB Boston’s varsity teams experienced banner seasons. The girls and boys went 14-3 and 16-2 respectively, records which included wins over schools such as Milton Academy, Episcopal High School, Shipley School, Pomfret School, and Loomis Chaffee School. At the High School National Championships in Hartford, CT, the boys took home top-honors in Division 4 while the girls moved up a division and finished fifth in Division 3. Both results were marked improvements over the previous year.
A month later, teams traveled to Yale University with 90 students for Urban Team Nationals. Strong results continued, as SquashBusters’ teams won 3 separate divisions, including the A-Division for high school girls.
Helping fuel the improvement in skill-level were the Elite Training Squad and Squash Mentors Program. The Elite Training Squad is a group of 20 SQB Boston students who participate weekly in an intense and focused practice early on Saturday mornings, run by volunteers Geoff and Bryan Keating. Additionally, 18 students participated in the squash mentors program, which paired our most driven players with volunteers from the Boston area who provided them with one-on-one coaching and mentoring. A huge thank you to Geoff, Bryan, and all of our squash mentors for making these programs possible!
Lastly, the SQB-Boston squash program is proud to be sending four graduates to play varsity college squash next season. We wish Angela (Connecticut College), Beverly (Tufts University), Josiah (Wesleyan University), and Kaetu (Amherst College) all the best in the next phase of their squash careers!
New Balance & SQB: Home & Away
What is is like work at one the world’s premiere athletic apparel manufacturers? SQB Boston students got a chance to find out.
New Balance is an incredible partner to SQB in ways that go far beyond financial support. This past spring, SquashBusters had the opportunity to continue to deepen that partnership through the New Balance & SQB: Home & Away Experience. This pilot initiative took place on two different days. First, 20 SQB Boston Seniors went to New Balance HQ for career exploration and a site visit (Away). A month later, a team of New Balance associates came to SQB Boston (Home) and participated in an “SQB afternoon” led entirely by the seniors.
The SQB@New Balance Career Exploration was an opportunity for our students to gain exposure to diverse career paths and professional development skills and to network with New Balance associates. The visit involved a tour of HQ, two panel discussions, Q&A, and concluded with lunch. The first group of panelists focused on interview prep and how to market yourself professionally, while the second group explored different departments and positions offered at New Balance. The panelists were comprised of a diverse team of New Balance associates who were able to talk to the students about their relevant departments, roles, and their own professional development stories.
New Balance@SQB took place a few weeks later, when a team of New Balance associates visited SquashBusters during programming hours. The visit was led entirely by Boston seniors, as a way for the New Balance staff to get a better understanding of the program from the student perspective. The visit included a student-led tour of the facility, a squash exhibition match between former world #1 squash player, Thierry Lincou, and SQB Squash Coach, Guy Davidson, and activities both on and off court that New Balance associates and SquashBusters seniors competed in together.
We look forward to continuing to deepen our partnership in the coming program year and beyond.