Urban Midwest Championships

students at kenyon

Photo courtesy of the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA).

The Squash and Education Alliance’s Midwest Championships take place every summer at Kenyon College. SquashBusters students from Boston, Lawrence and Providence will road-trip to Ohio for the tournament.

Learn more.

SQB Boston Summer Slam

summer slam kids

The SquashBusters Summer Slam is a three-week camp at the SQB facility on the campus of Northeastern University open to any elementary or middle school student who is interested in playing or learning squash.

Interested in having your child attend the Middle School Summer Slam? Contact Amy Sanchez.

SquashBusters CEO Greg Zaff Sits Down with Boston.com

greg playing squash with yvonne

In a fantastic interview with Hilary Sargent, SquashBusters founder and CEO Greg Zaff talked about the history of the program, how it has grown from a program serving 24 kids using borrowed courts and classrooms, and how ‪urban squash‬ became a worldwide movement that has served over 2000 youth since it began twenty years ago.

Read the interview.

Governor Baker Stops By To Wish a Happy 20th to SquashBusters

governor baker with student
Governor Baker congratulates Bryante Thomson (SQB ’16) on her acceptance to Salem State University.
Governor Baker speaks to SquashBusters students from Boston and Lawrence.

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.”

April 29, 2016. Boston, MA.Massachusetts Governor Baker visits Squashbusters Inc.© 2016 Marilyn Humphries

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

Seizing Opportunity with SquashBusters

nusea students outside capitol
SQB’s Antar Jimenez (front row, far left) and Yami Urena (front row, second from right) travelled toWashington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City for the NUSEA Citizenship Tour.

The Trip of a Lifetime: SquashBusters Students Embark on Third Annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour

nusea students at nbc
Urban squash students meet with NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt at 30 Rock.

SquashBusters’ strong partnership with the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) allows us to connect our students to incredible opportunities, from squash squads to internships to academic programs, that expand their horizons. One such opportunity is the Citizenship Tour, which gives select urban squash students the chance to travel the country and meet influential leaders in the world of government, media and civic life.

Antar Jimenez, SquashBusters Lawrence ’18, was one of the lucky students chosen for this experience this past summer. With 23 other students from 11 different programs, Antar spent eight days travelling up and down the East Coast, stopping in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., on the third annual Citizenship Tour.

Along the way, students met with some famous faces and big names, including Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Senator Al Franken (MN), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. “Meeting the senators and Supreme Court Justice Kagan was great,” said Antar. “The tour helped give me greater appreciation for their jobs and the hard work they put in. You can really see how they seek to make a beneficial change in their environment and make a difference in the lives of others.”

The group also visited Independence Hall and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, toured NBC Studios, The New York Times Building, the U.S. Capitol and The White House, and attended a professional soccer game to watch the Philadelphia Union battle it out against DC United.

Of course, there was plenty of squash as well – the week kicked off with a hit-around at StreetSquash Harlem, and students got to hear about the history of urban squash from StreetSquash Executive Director George Polsky and NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. Two of the U.S. Senators, Senator Franken and Senator Gillibrand, are fellow players. Sen. Gillibrand even jumped on court with students on the last day of the tour.

Antar was not the only SquashBusters representative in attendance. Yamiles Urena, SquashBusters ’14, attended as an alumna and chaperone. Both Antar and Yamiles had a great time travelling and bonding with fellow members of the urban squash family. “We didn’t expect that after just a week, we would have gotten so close,” said Antar. “We didn’t want the week to end. I’m so excited to see everyone at the next NUSEA tournament.”


Champions Come Together to ‘Light’ the Way for SQB

Matt Light speaks to SQB supporters at the first annual Breakfast with Champions

Nearly sixty of the program’s biggest stakeholders showed their incredible commitment to SquashBusters when they braved early morning traffic and chilly temperatures for the first ever Breakfast with Champions on Thursday, October 27th. Board members, volunteers, school partners and major donors put their heads together over omelets and pastries by the SQB squash courts at Northeastern University to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities currently facing the organization.

The morning kicked off with welcome remarks by SQB alum and Board member Jose Rivera, followed by a program update by Boston Program Director Myra Sack and Lawrence Executive Director Dora Lubin. Myra and Dora gave a recap of the 2015-2016 program year, sprinkling in a few standout stories of student success, before laying out what’s in store for both programs in 2016-2017.

After guests learned about some of SQB’s successes and challenges over the past 12 months, Board member Meg Campbell put them to work, challenging each person in the room to put on his or her “consultant hat” and join the others at their tables in brainstorming solutions for specific issues facing SquashBusters this year. Topics included identifying strategies for engaging with the corporate community in Boston, sourcing leaders and partners for the program’s expansion to Providence, and telling our story effectively to supporters. Each group quickly rose to the occasion, filling up their designated poster boards with thoughtful ideas on how to strengthen SQB and its network. Once time was up, Board member Juma Crawford facilitated a group share-out, and each table revealed its best ideas for tackling its specific challenge.

To cap off the inspirational morning, Matt Light, former New England Patriots offensive lineman and founder of the Light Foundation, spoke to the crowd about the importance of programs like SQB. Serving youth through his own organization, Matt is no stranger to the work SQB does each day and the vital role of all of the people behind the program. “All of you in this room are what make all of this possible,” he said.

With full bellies and plenty of motivation, each person in the room left the Breakfast with Champions with new energy, inspired to continue with the important work that changes kids lives for the better. We can’t wait to do it again next year!


SquashBusters Sets Out on Another Record-Breaking Year

Three SQB girls – and one coach! – competed in the Howe Cup at Chelsea Piers Connecticut.

The 2016-2017 year is off to a great start at SquashBusters.

This fall, we welcomed more than 100 students who tried out for official spots on the SquashBusters Boston and Lawrence teams. In Boston, 35 seventh-graders were ultimately selected for the Boston 2022 team and 17 sixth-graders made the final Lawrence 2023 team. In addition, four new eighth-graders joined the Boston program and five new students – one in seventh grade, two in eighth and two in ninth grade – became part of the SQB Lawrence community. As always, students were selected based on their commitment and enthusiasm for the opportunity, not on their athletic or academic ability. We are so excited to welcome the new members of the SQB family!

Thanks to our partner schools, Codman Academy Charter Public School, John D. OBryant School of Math and Science, Joseph Lee K-8 School, Rafael Hernandez School, and Timilty Middle School in Boston, as well as Arlington Middle School and Emily G. Wetherbee School in Lawrence, we are able to bring the sport of squash and the myriad of opportunities that come with it to the youth of both cities.

students visiting tripadvisor
SQB high school students visited TripAdvisor to tour their state-of-the-art headquarters and meet and chat with employees from various departments.

This year, SquashBusters will serve more than 300 middle school, high school and college students – more than ever before.

Meanwhile, our more established SquashBusters students are working hard, both on court and off. In Boston, eighth-graders have been meeting with their individual tutors twice per week to build their math and literacy skills, thanks to our partnership with Tutors for All. All ninth and tenth-graders have been working on academics as well, mixing in some career-readiness activities like resume-writing and even taking a trip to TripAdvisor to check out all the different aspects of a corporate environment. Our high school juniors have started SAT prep and taken their first practice test both in Boston and in Lawrence, where for the first time, students are going through the college application process.

Finally, our seventeen seniors are taking some of the most important steps in their SquashBusters careers. This summer, our rising seniors were matched with individual college mentors to begin work on their essays and applications. With the support of their mentors and SQB staff, they’re currently hard at work finalizing their list of schools and editing their essays. In addition, this year, the FAFSA opened up early, so students have begun the financial aid process also with help from SQB mentors and staff. It’s hard work now, but it will certainly pay off in the spring once the acceptance letters starting rolling in. We can’t wait to see where they’ll be this time next year!

On the squash court, SquashBusters students have already competed in eleven matches and tournaments since the year began, including the Howe Cup, Noble & Greenough Bronze, St. Lukes Silver and NUSEA Northeast Regionals. Students have also had opportunities to train with the Harvard University and Wellesley College squash teams.

We’re so proud of all that our students have accomplished so far this year, and we are so excited to see what 2017 has to bring! To keep up with everything going on at SquashBusters as it happens, be sure to like SQB and SQB Lawrence on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!


A Circle of Support: Alumni Return to Give Back to SQB

From left to right: Darryl Soto, Mikhail Darlington, Rodney Galvao, Vicky Flamenco, Alejandra Madrid and Ti Tran are all SQB alumni who have returned to work for the program.

One of the best parts about serving young people is watching them grow into kind, successful, well-rounded adults. With more than two decades of programming under our belt, SquashBusters now has a broad network of alumni, and nothing makes us happier than welcoming some of them back to SQB as staff members. This year, seven SquashBusters alumni are employed in both full- and part-time positions. As squash coaches, academic coordinators, alumni and college success managers, finance administrators, and support staff, SQB alumni fill roles in every corner of the organization.

Day in and day out, Mikhail Darlington, Vicky Flamenco, Rodney Galvao, Alejandra Madrid, Deanna Pettway, Darryl Soto, and Ti Tran move the needle for the 300 SquashBusters students in Boston, Lawrence, and in college.

SQB alumna Deanna Pettaway joined the staff this year as a College and Alumni Success Assistant.

As program staff, Mikhail, Vicky, Rodney, Ale, Darryl and Deanna coach, teach, mentor, and support kids on their journeys through middle school, high school, and beyond, bringing along with them the unique perspective of having once been in the very same shoes as our current students. On the finance side, Ti helps the organization run smoothly and ensures that we will be around for many more students in the future.

After graduating from Temple University in 2011, Mikhail, SquashBusters ’07, took a corporate job with a property management company. Although successful at work, he felt that something was missing – his heart was with urban squash and youth development. In 2015, Mikhail returned to SquashBusters as our College Access and Success Manager, working with our high school students and alumni as they make their way to and through college. “I know from personal experience how hard it is as a student of color to navigate high school and college. I want to share my own insight and experiences with current students who are dealing with some of those same struggles,” he says.

Deanna, SquashBusters ’14, joined Mikhail’s College and Alumni Success team this fall. Currently enrolled at Northeastern University, Deanna has always stayed close to the program. She values  having ties to a program like SquashBusters, whose staff still supports and cares about her, and now she provides that same concern and encouragement for SQB’s 71 college students across the country. Her advice to current students? “Don’t take for granted all the opportunities the program provides,” she offers. “In the future, every opportunity you’ve had here will open doors and prove beneficial.”

Along with Mikhail and Deanna, Vicky, Rodney, Ale, Darryl, and Ti contribute to the success of our program in ways that no one else can. Having grown up with this program, they know firsthand the impact SquashBusters can have on a young person’s life. We are so grateful that they’ve chosen to return to SQB and make a difference for our current students. As alumni continue to graduate each year, we look forward to welcoming many more of them to the staff someday!

Twenty Years and Counting

An Incredible Weekend of Urban Squash

SQB Boston high school students with Academic Coordinator Eileen Barrer at Amherst College for Urban Individual Nationals.

Over the weekend of June 17-19, SquashBusters took its annual trip west, heading to Williams and Amherst colleges for the 14th Urban Individual Squash Championships held by the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA). SquashBusters brought 83 excited middle and high school students from Boston and Lawrence, comprising nearly 20% of the 400 urban squash players across both campuses.

The event showcased the incredible talent, sportsmanship, and grit that are the hallmarks of every urban squash program. The weekend is a favorite of many SquashBusters students – largely because it gives them a taste of college life, from sleeping in the dorms and eating in the dining halls to playing on the university courts and touring the academic facilities.

sqb girls at williams college
SQB Boston middle school girls at Williams College on Saturday, June 18.

“The tournament is a lot of fun because not only do you get to spend time with students in your own program, you also get to see friends you’ve made in other programs from all over the country and world. Spending time on a college campus especially gives juniors and seniors a feel for college. From having a roommate to sharing a bathroom and respecting the space of the other students around you, you really get to picture yourself in college”, says Pedro Leta-Flores, a SquashBusters senior who

spent the weekend at Amherst College for his fifth UIN tournament.

As always, competition was tough, but SquashBusters was proud to see students distinguish themselves both on and off the court. SQB Lawrence ninth-grader, Melbin Rojas, was the winner of the BU17B draw, while three SquashBusters players were finalists in their respective draws: SQB Lawrence sixth-grader Amaiya Lu (GU13B), SQB Boston eighth-grader Marangela James (GU15B), and SQB Boston junior Matthew Nwaford (BU17A). In addition, SQB Boston junior Jose Soto was honored with the Under 19 Academic Award. Notable SquashBusters results are listed below.

boys at tournament
SQB Lawrence middle school boys at Williams College.

“One of my favorite parts of the weekend is watching our students walking through the Williams and Amherst campuses – to and from the dining halls, the dorms and the squash facilities. As soon as they arrive, they feel at home, and quickly reconnect with old friends and make new ones. It’s inspiring to see so many students from so many programs, and SquashBusters always has a large and positive influence on the weekend,” said Tim Wyant, NUSEA Executive Director.

We are so thankful to Williams College and Amherst College for graciously hosting the Urban Individual Squash Championships, and to the staff at NUSEA for putting together this wonderful event year after year.


Winner (First place)

Melbin Rojas, 9th grade, BU17B

Finalist (Second place)

Amaiya Lu, 6th grade, GU13B

Marangela James, 8th grade, GU15B

Matthew Nwaford, 11th grade, BU17A

Third place

Cynthia Gomez, 7th grade, GU13B

Kaetu Wleh, 9th grade, BU15A

Kira Tejeda, 11th grade, GU17A

Fourth place

June Zhang, 8th grade, GU15B

Edward Arias-Diaz, 11th grade, BU19A

Jennifer Mbah, 11th grade, GU19A

Classic Plate Winner (Fifth place)

Colin Ye, 8th grade, BU15B

Valerie Rosario, 7th grade, GU15B

Academic Awards

Jose Soto, 11th grade, BU19


Congratulations, class of 2016!

SquashBusters’ graduating seniors officially joined the Alumni family at the Seniors vs. Alumni match on May 31.

SquashBusters is so excited to offer our heartfelt congratulations to our graduating high school seniors, who are ready to take on the world with SquashBusters in their corner! We are so proud of our 18 graduates, who are setting off on various post-secondary paths:

Providence College
UMass Lowell
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
UMass Lowell
Pine Manor College
Emmanuel College
Boston University
UMass Boston
Denison University
Providence College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
UMass Dartmouth
UMass Dartmouth
Salem State University: Summer Bridge Academy
Salem State University
St. Lawrence University
Northeastern University

These students have worked incredibly hard to get where they’re going, and this year was no exception. Together with their mentors, SquashBusters staff, and their families, the class of 2016 logged hundreds of hours editing college essays, filling out applications and financial aid forms, and researching and applying for scholarships. As a result, they collectively received 111 acceptances and earned over $433,369 in grants and scholarships. In a world where students are graduating with increasingly unmanageable amounts of debt, our students will graduate with less than half the national four-year average of $28,950.

SquashBusters is so glad that we can remain a supportive resource for our alumni in college, and that their relationships with us don’t sever once they’ve graduated from the program. SQB alumnus and College and Alumni Success Coordinator Mikhail Darlington will be checking in regularly with the class of 2016 once the school year begins, just as he does with all of our college students, to ensure they are academically, socially and financially thriving and on track to make it to another graduation day.

SQB graduates (L to R) Jason, Alex and Rose.

Speaking of which, we are thrilled to congratulate our four alumni who graduated from college this May:

Boston University

UMass Amherst

Suffolk University

Boston University


SquashBusters Celebrates 10th Derby with $1.2 Million Raised

derby pros
The Derby’s squash professionals, from left to right: David Palmer, Thierry Lincou, Graham Bassett, Clinton Leeuw, Jonathon Power, Amanda Sobhy, Peter Nicol, Mark Chaloner and Dan Sharplin

In an awe-inspiring show of support for SquashBusters’ twentieth year, members of the Boston community rallied together to raise over $1.2 million for the tenth MFS SquashBusters Derby at the University Club of Boston on Friday, May 6th and at SquashBusters on Saturday, May 7th.

With help MFS Investment Management, who generously signed on as the event’s title sponsor for the fifth year in a row, and Westfield Capital, SquashBusters raised a record-breaking amount for its program: the final tally coming in at $1,241,720.

The Derby, which is a pro-amateur squash competition that takes place each May, brings together supporters from all over the world who commit to fundraising at least $5,000 for their spot as a doubles or singles player on one of the eight competing teams. This year, MFS Chairman and co-CEO Rob Manning and CFO Amrit Kanwal both supported the event and played doubles for Wallbanger, the defending champions who won the competition for the eighth year in a row after a rematch of last year’s finals against runner-up Eijk’s Knights.

While Wallbanger took home the trophy as winners of the squash competition, each year the Derby also recognizes the individual who raises the most on behalf of the program through the coveted Secretariat Award. This year’s cup was presented to two Board members: Sandy Tierney, Executive Vice-President at McCall & Almy and David Drubner, Executive Director at The Baupost Group; each of whom raised nearly $95,000 to support the nearly 300 Boston and Lawrence youth who benefit from the SquashBusters program.

In addition to MFS, corporate sponsors of the event include Westfield Capital Management, Audax Group, Berkshire Partners, Brown Brothers Harriman, Carousel Industries, Clough Capital PartnersDeloitte, Ernst & Young LLP, Folger Hill Asset Management, General Catalyst Partners, Kohlberg & Associates, McCall & Almy, National Development/Charles River Realty Investors, New Balance, William Neil & Co., Sapient Global Markets, State Street Corporation, Sun Life Investment ManagementThermo Fisher Scientific, TOG and UBS.

On Saturday, supporters filled the SquashBusters facility on the Northeastern University campus, to watch singles matches and enjoy a cocktail party and a speaking program featuring remarks from graduating SquashBusters senior Yaritza Amado, a student at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury.

“It has been said that SquashBusters is like a family. To me, it is much more than that,” said Amado, who will be attending Providence College in the fall. “SquashBusters has been central to every experience I’ve enjoyed, every relationship I’ve benefited from, every goal I’ve set, and every hope I’ve had since I joined four years ago.”

In addition to the fundraising players, fifteen world-class squash professionals came out to the event, including former World No. 1’s Thierry Lincou, Peter Nicol, David Palmer and Jonathon Power, as well as current World No. 8 Amanda Sobhy, who played on the first-ever all-women’s Derby team, Unbridled.

“The Derby makes the SquashBusters program possible. It is by far our most significant annual fundraising effort,” said Greg Zaff, SquashBusters CEO and founder. “We are sincerely grateful to all of the players and fundraisers who are the engine that drives the event’s success each year.”


SquashBusters Bids Fond Farewell to Longstanding Board Members

outgoing board members
Greg Zaff, center, celebrated the contributions of outgoing Board members (L to R) Lenny Bernheimer, Sandy Tierney, Amrit Kanwal, Tom Poor and Errin Siagel.
new board members
New Board members (L to R) Henry Manice, Bill Paine and David Antonelli.

On Tuesday, June 21, the SquashBusters Board of Directors gathered at a favorite restaurant – Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley – to celebrate, honor and express their thanks to five outgoing members: Lenny Bernheimer, Sandy Tierney, Errin Siagel, Tom Poor and Amrit Kanwal. These generous individuals are passing the torch after a collective term of almost 100 years.

It is impossible to adequately capture their contributions, both to SquashBusters and to Greg. They have invested thousands of hours of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial support. All in, they have served as Board Chair, Development Chair, Investment Chair, Treasurer/Finance Chair and Derby Chair. They were there at the University Club when the idea for SquashBusters and urban squash was first brought into being. They were there when SquashBusters leased its first van, graduated its first student, and deposited its first donation.

They presided over the construction of our youth center at Northeastern University, our Lawrence expansion and our current plans to build a home in Providence with Moses Brown School. They have mentored students and staff and are responsible for the Derby growing to become the $1m+ MFS SquashBusters Derby. The list carries on and words cannot describe the depth of the contribution that these five amazing people have made to SquashBusters. Thank you Lenny, Sandy, Errin, Tom, and Amrit!

The Board also extends a warm welcome to its four newest members: Philomena Mantella, David Antonelli, Bill Paine and Henry Manice.

Philomena is Senior Vice President/CEO of Northeastern’s Global Network. She has and will continue to play a key role in supporting our vital partnership with the university, and she is integrally involved with Northeastern’s Torch Scholars and Foundation Year programs, which have paved the way for several SQB graduates to enroll in Northeastern. David is Vice Chairman of Investment at MFS. He has been tremendously supportive of the Derby and will lend his expertise to our Expansion Committee’s facility work in Lawrence and Providence. Bill, a partner at WilmerHale, is a member of the Lawrence Leadership Council, a MashUp player, and a generous contributor and fundraiser for the program. Henry, co-founder of Mighty Squirrel, is a MashUp player and a generous donor. Henry plans to get very involved in helping with our Providence expansion and also intends to be a mentor to our students.


SquashBusters: A Team, A Family, A Community

A SquashBusters Alum Sets Out to Change the World

SQB Alum Ashley Garrett interned at the White House, where she met President Obama, Vice President Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Growing up in Mattapan and Roxbury, SquashBusters alum Ashley Garrett always felt that through SQB and other programs, she benefited from access to opportunities that many in her community weren’t as lucky to have. Months away from graduating with a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from American University, Ashley is nothing short of accomplished, and she can’t wait to give back through a career in public service.

Ashley joined SquashBusters in 2004 as an eighth-grader at Timilty Middle School and stuck with the program all the way through her high school graduation. It wasn’t just squash that kept her involved, but the varied opportunities and new people she was exposed to as a SquashBusters student. Her admiration for Greg and love for community service are what she remembers most fondly. They had a powerful influence on her decision to follow a path of public service in her studies and her work.

After graduating from high school, Ashley enrolled at Wesleyan University, and applied for a rigorous, multidisciplinary special major called the College of Social Studies. Ashley was not the typical applicant: she struggled in her writing and was a student athlete with a demanding schedule, but she was accepted because of the same strengths that SquashBusters saw in her: resilience, persistence, and a willingness to work hard and keep trying no matter what. Of the 30 candidates in the program, Ashley was one of 22 who finished, and she was one of only six women in the program. Her studies at Wesleyan took Ashley to Denmark, where she learned about European health programs and how they offered solutions to similar challenges facing the health system in the US, prompting her to write a thesis on the subject.

Driven to create change, Ashley has always believed strongly in giving people equal access to resources and felt that systemic issues have to be addressed from the top. This passion took her to American University, where she threw herself into opportunities that would give her an in-depth understanding of the federal government, the healthcare system, and challenges facing the American public. In her second semester of grad school, Ashley joined the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence as an intern, reading and responding to mail related to foreign policy and defense, listening to stories of everyday citizens and helping them get the resources they needed, and giving White House tours. She even submitted her college thesis to the Office of the Vice President as part of her participation in a working group on health policy.

In her capacity as an intern, Ashley had the opportunity to meet President Obama and Vice President Biden, but it was her encounter with First Lady Michelle Obama that left the greatest impact. Ashley listened to Mrs. Obama talk about resilience, education, and the importance of leadership and public service – themes that resonated with Ashley personally, as they are woven throughout her own upbringing and educational journey.

As Ashley winds down her studies and prepares for life after graduate school, she reflects with gratitude on the opportunities that she has been given throughout her life – SquashBusters included. We are so proud to see what she has accomplished and how her grit and resilience continue to propel her forward, and we can’t wait to see how she changes the world.


Behind the Derby: The Many Contributions of the Nimicks

John and Kate Nimick
John and Kate Nimick

As the 2017 MFS SquashBusters Derby fast approaches – mark your calendars for May 5 and 6! – it seems apropos for SquashBusters to extend a heartfelt thank you to the husband and wife team of John and Kate Nimick.

Most Derby aficionados can quickly point to the phenomenal contributions that both John and Kate have made towards our signature fundraising event. John has been the brains behind the Derby moving north of $1 million. He brainstormed the Derby’s expansion to doubles, has recruited all of the pros, and partnered with Greg these last several years in securing each and every one of the amateur players and fundraisers. As founder and team captain of the all-women’s team Unbridled, Kate singlehandedly solved the Derby’s ten-year challenge of involving more women in the event.

Unbridled is about to saddle up for its second SquashBusters Derby. With Amanda Sobhy, current world number 6, and her sister Sabrina, ready to run, the team promises to be a competitive juggernaut. Intercontinental Real Estate, New Balance and Thermo Fisher Scientific are already lined up as major team sponsors, meaning Unbridled will more than hold its own in the fundraising race as well.

What people may not know is that John and Kate have been in the trenches with SquashBusters since the program’s very start. John served as SquashBusters’ first Board Chair when the program was nothing short of a pipe dream, with $20 in the bank and twenty trusting students on the roster. Kate ran an academic station at Hemenway Gym in 1995, when the very first team was trying out. Years later, when SquashBusters had matured and expanded to Northeastern University, she served as Program Director – the most challenging and important role in the organization. Over 20+ years, John and Kate have spent countless  hours helping SquashBusters kids grow as athletes and students. They also have been tremendously generous financial supporters of SquashBusters.

The friendship between John, Kate and Greg goes way back to the days of The Squash Club in Allston in the 1980s, when John and Greg were training partners and competitors on the World Professional Squash Tour. Kate kept them both humble as the fittest and strongest of the three. Their bond – the same kind of closeness that SquashBusters tries to foster among its students – has truly been responsible for so much of the joy and success of our special program, and of its aging, but still devoted, leader.

“Since we first talked with Greg on our front lawn about his idea for this program – where we probably told him he was crazy – being a part of SquashBusters has been a privilege,” says John. “We support Greg’s vision that all kids should be nurtured and supported, regardless of the circumstances they come from. We’re looped in for the long haul.”

Thank you so much, John and Kate, for everything you have done for SquashBusters.

The 11th Annual MFS SquashBusters Derby will take place on Friday, May 5 at the University Club of Boston and Saturday, May 6 at SquashBusters. Visit the event website to learn how you can support SquashBusters’ big event.


SquashBusters Student Spotlight: Ife Asere

Ife with mentor
Ife Asere, SquashBusters ’17, and her college mentor, Katie Fagan

Senior year of high school is a busy and challenging time for everyone, but that didn’t stop Ife Asere, SquashBusters ’17, from signing on as captain of the Boston high school girls’ team this year. In fact, taking on new challenges and persevering are a big part of Ife’s character – something that’s been reinforced time and time again over her six years in the program.

Ife joined SquashBusters as a seventh grader, because she wanted to try a new and different sport. Since then, she’s built close relationships with the staff and her fellow students, moved up the squash ladder, traveled to new cities and given back to her community.

As the girls’ team captain, Ife is tasked with pumping up her teammates before matches and giving pep talks and motivation when other players are down. It means a lot to Ife to provide this helping hand to her fellow students, because it’s something she’s also benefited from many times at SquashBusters.

“My freshman year, I was not doing well in school and I almost had to quit squash,” she recounts. “I didn’t want to lose what I had here, so that helped me turn things around. Luckily, with SquashBusters, I never felt like I had to do it by myself. I had tutors to help with my homework, and I could always talk to the staff when I needed support. They’re always there for me.”

As a senior, Ife is especially grateful for the intensive support SquashBusters provides with the college application process. SQB staff members Mikhail and Eileen, along with her college mentor, Katie Fagan, have provided help with everything from identifying potential schools to applying for scholarships. “SquashBusters is the reason I’m here today, applying to college,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to get that level of support anywhere else.”

She is excited to take the next step in her journey – college – and work toward her dream of becoming an oncologist. At this point, she has already received acceptances from Curry College, Dean, College, New England College, Roger Williams University, the University of Connecticut, UMass Amherst and UMass Dartmouth. With her grit and determination and everything she’s learned from SquashBusters in her toolbox, we have no doubt that she will excel wherever she ends up.

When asked what advice she would give to younger SquashBusters students, Ife had plenty of wisdom to share. “Stick with it, even when it’s hard or you’re not at the top of the ladder. SquashBusters is more than just squash. It’s lifelong friendship and a great network. And always come to practice, even if you’re feeling down. You might come to squash sad, but you’ll always leave happy.”


Teaming Up for Urban Teams

student playing
Snyder Amazan, SquashBusters ’19, dives for a shot at Urban Team Nationals.
GU-15 finalists
The GU-15 team took second in their division

In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, January 14, more than seventy SquashBusters students boarded two Greyhound buses in Lawrence and Boston and set off to the City of Brotherly Love for the prestigious honor of playing in the thirteenth annual Urban Team Nationals (UTN) tournament.

Hosted by the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), UTN is a weekend-long competition that gives students the chance to play alongside their teammates and meet hundreds of their peers from 18 other urban squash programs across the country.

This year’s event brought together 450 students from 19 programs, with players travelling from places as far as Cleveland, Detroit and San Diego to compete on courts at Drexel University, the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, SquashSmarts and the University of Pennsylvania.

The tournament kicked off with some inspiring remarks from Monete Johnson (SquashBusters ’07 and Trinity College ’11) who talked about her fond memories at the first-ever UTN in 2004, when there were four programs and less than 100 students. From there, it was back-to-back squash for the next three days, with SquashBusters competing across all eight divisions. Competition was fierce, but SquashBusters’ Girls Under 15-B and Girls Under 17-B groups both clinched finalist spots in their divisions! More results can be found below.

Between matches, students took some time to explore Philadelphia, visiting iconic sites like the Liberty Bell, City Hall, the Art Museum and the Rocky statue. NUSEA also hosted several exciting off-court activities. In the academic essay contest, SquashBusters Boston freshman Marangela James won the U-15 division with her essay answering the question: “What would you do if you were President for one day?” In addition, Monete joined several other alumni – Jacinthe Cooke (SquashBusters ’06 and Smith College ’10) and Mikhail Darlington (SquashBusters ’07 and Temple University ’11) – on a Q&A panel alongside graduates from other programs who talked to current urban squash students about what to expect in college and the professional world.

Year after year, UTN continues to be a meaningful experience and a fabulous opportunity for our students. “UTN gives our students the chance to earn their way to something special and have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete on a national platform,” says Boston Program Director Myra Sack. “The tournament harnesses the power of sport to build a community of young people who become excited to learn and grow, get comfortable on a college campus and begin to imagine the real possibility of attending one, and who are inspired and guided by their peers to continue to set meaningful and concrete life goals.”

UTN rotates locations every year between Philadelphia, New York, and right here in Boston. Last year, SquashBusters hosted, and next year, the tournament will be held in New York. We can’t wait to do it all again when the time comes!

Competition Results

BU-15 A Team 4th Place, A Division – Joshua Agesta, Oscar Eldh Jahn, Chris Garcia, Anthony Guzman, Colin Ye

BU-15 B Team 3rd Place, B Division – Raudy Bonilla, Abdiel Ixlej, Phillip Kutta Jr., Thomas Le, Emmanuel Rivera

GU-15 A Team 3rd Place, A Division – Xaria Durocher, Brenda Hernandez, Marangela James,  Valerie Rosario, June Zhang

GU-15 B Team 2nd Place, B Division – Yeribel Fermin, Cynthia Gomez, Lilian Interiano, Winter Jones, Paula Villarruel

GU-17 A Team 3rd Place, A Division – Angela Cao, Kat Leiva, Tina Jagmohan, Charlenny Perez-Pena, Beverly Vo

GU-17 B Team 2nd Place, B Division- Elizangi Araujo, Micheka Fenelon, Sayuri Omura, Chantal Perez-Pena, Ariany Terrero

BU-19 A Team 4th Place, A Division -Antar Jimenez, George Montero, Ravi Rao, Pablo Rodriguez, Jose Soto

GU-19 A Team 4th Place, A Division – Ife Asere, Heyssis Castillo, Princess Ojukwu, Tara Reed-Smith, Toni Woods

2017 MFS SquashBusters Derby Breaks Another Record with $1.3M Raised

Team Unbridled took home the finalist trophies. From L to R: Kira Tejeda (SquashBusters ’17), Donald Pepple (SquashBusters ’17), Alexa Jacobs, Sabrina Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford, Corey Schafer, Hope Prockop, Amanda Sobhy, Mary McKee, Christina Brownell, Mimi Coolidge, Bry Roskoz and Nessrine Ariffin.
SquashBusters senior George Montero spoke to the Derby guests about his time in the program and how it has impacted his life and future.

The two-year-old all-women’s team Unbridled came within a whisker of victory, but perennial champions Wallbanger took home the trophy for the ninth consecutive year at the 2017 MFS SquashBusters Derby in Boston over the May 4-7 weekend. Wallbanger defeated Unbridled 6-5 in the final, bolstered along the way by points accrued from an outstanding team fundraising total of $362,446.

After two months of fundraising, more than 80 amateur players, a dozen team captains, and a gaggle of elite pros took to the doubles courts at the University Club and the singles courts at SquashBusters in an 8-team race full of fun, festivities and incredible generosity. With MFS Investments and their dynamic duo of President Rob Manning and CFO Amrit Kanwal leading the way as Title Sponsor, Will Muggia’s Westfield Capital Management in strong support as a Diamond Presenting Sponsor, and Peter Palandjian’s Intercontinental Real Estate bolstering a cadre of more than 21 corporate sponsors, the collective enterprise raised a record $1.3m for the sports-based youth development program.

Event Committee Co-Chair David Drubner took home the coveted Secretariat Award with a momentous $77,000 fundraising mark, while super-supporters Sandy Tierney, Will Muggia, John Blasberg and George Bell were in close pursuit the entire way. Significant personal contributions also came from David and Lisa Antonelli, George Bell and Carrie Minot Bell, John and Jeannie Blasberg, Ralph and Janice James, Henry and Anna Manice, Don and Susan Mykrantz, Nancy and Mike Loucks, and Rob and Donna Manning.

On the squash front, the eleventh edition of the Derby featured the spirit and talent of some of the sports best-loved and most successful professionals. Returning for the ninth time were World Champion Peter Nicol and Boston’s local hero/coach Dan Sharplin. Adding excitement to the pro competition and team leadership were 2-time World Champion David Palmer, Team USA #2 Olivia Blatchford, subbing for the recovering Amanda Sobhy, who was also thoroughly on hand, as well as Suzie Pierrepont, Ramit Tandon, Clinton Leeuw, Alister Walker and Wael El Hindi. Notables in the mix included former hardball champion Mark Talbott, Canadian great Clive Caldwell, John Nimick, celebrity chef and former Yale star Ming Tsai, former Intercollegiate Champion Amr Khalifa and the multi-talented Chris Walker, whose second successful hip replacement relegated him off-court to lead the Junior Stakes portion of the competition.

The second year of the Derby’s Junior Stakes, molded into another great success by Co-Chair Jeannie Blasberg and Stakes founding spirit Simone Winston, saw 16 juniors from the local community and 16 SquashBusters teammates form into 8 teams for spirited rounds of Offense/Defense and match play, before Lucky Strike took home the honors as the winning team.

The true highlight of the 2017 Derby was the speech given during the evening reception by graduating senior George Montero, of Dorchester. Montero gave credit to SquashBusters, its staff and particularly Program Director Myra Sack for giving him confidence and hope as well as a brighter future.

SquashBusters senior George Montero spoke to the Derby guests about his time in the program and how it has impacted his life and future.

Montero, who gave a shout out to every one of his fellow graduates and second family, is graduating from Another Course to College and will enroll at Drexel University in September 2017. At Drexel, George will study secondary education and play on the squash team.

In his closing remarks, SquashBusters founder and visionary Greg Zaff credited everyone in the room and all the Derby supporters over the previous eleven years with the success of the urban squash wave that started in Boston and is still rippling out across the country and the world.

SquashBusters would like to thank Marilyn Humphries Photography for capturing the event. Please feel free to check out more of the great photos:
May 5: Doubles at the University Club
May 6: Singles at SquashBusters

SquashBusters Takes On the World

SquashBusters Alum Named Fulbright Scholar

Ben Osajie, SquashBusters ’13, just graduated from Connecticut College. Next, he sets off to Thailand on a Fulbright Scholarship.

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!

The SquashBusters class of 2017 at the Seniors vs. Alumni match on June 1.
SQB seniors Ife Asere and Jennifer Mbah at the Seniors vs. Alumni match.

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:

UMass Boston
Bridgewater State University
UMass Amherst
Union College
Newbury College
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
College of the Holy Cross
Bryant University
Foundation Year at Northeastern University
UMass Boston
Mount Holyoke College
Framingham State University
Drexel University
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
SQB senior Princess Ojukwu and alum Yami Urena at the Seniors vs. Alumni match.

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:

Northeastern University
Providence College
Bentley University
UMass Boston
MassBay Community College
Mount Holyoke College
UMass Dartmouth
Bucknell University
Connecticut College
Barnard College
UMass Boston
Bay State College
Suffolk University

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

students in San Francisco
Kaetu Wleh, SquashBusters Boston ’19, and Melbin Rojas, SquashBusters Lawrence ’19, at last year’s NUSEA Stanford Squad.

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

PVD rendering building
A rendering of the Moses Brown/SquashBusters facility.
Providence facility floorplan
The interior floor plan of the facility.

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.