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boast-drive sessions, and chock-filled calendars of school matches, tournaments, and community service days, have been replaced by Zoom fitness classes and online tutoring, but SQB remains programmatically strong and focused.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.
Without access to our usual facilities, SquashBusters Lawrence fully bought into the Season 1 theme of Discovery and Exploration. In our pursuit to find meaningful ways to spend time together without normal classrooms or courts, we got creative and, in the process, discovered new activities and sports that we will undoubtedly continue to do long after things return to normal.
The middle school team kept active by transforming rented office space into anything from a badminton court to a ping-pong facility so students could get their fill of racquet sports and competition, even without squash. When the weather allowed, PODs were active outdoors, doing fitness circuits wherever they could find patches of grass in Lawrence. And, when they weren’t working up a sweat, the middle school team spent time exploring wellness in both body and mind, with yoga and meditation. Around the holidays, you could find the classroom dressed up for a Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas party to ensure that students had a chance to celebrate with friends.
The high school team also thought outside of the box to design SQB programming. Ninth grade boys spent weeks discussing the relationship between different games and sports and how to become a more effective team, while a POD of girls spent time researching causes close to their hearts and expressing their feelings on the subject through art. All this in-person programming was complimented by weekly mindfulness and meditation sessions as well as the introduction of a video game club.
Of course, even with all these fun and new activities, students dearly missed playing the sport they love – squash! Fortunately, we were able to secure weekend court access at Northeastern (thanks to the Boston Program!) and students happily spent up to 90 minutes on the bus (there AND back!) just to be able to solo hit on court or work with a ball machine. Though difficult, these late Friday nights and early Saturday mornings were totally worth it since it meant we could get back to working on our rails or volleys!
Despite the departure from our normal programming routine, this time has given us the opportunity to explore what it means to be part of SquashBusters and discover new interests and ways to engage with our teammates. We are looking forward to being even MORE creative and adaptive as we continue our “new normal” here at SQB Lawrence!
Three weeks of a virtual competition to support SquashBusters Lawrence.
The MashUp Challenge has kicked off with a week’s worth of challenges – dog walks, meditation sessions, bike, hikes, and run. It looks a little different than in year’s past, but the important pieces are the same.
Same great cause!
Each Sunday, players receive a menu of themed challenges – College, Character, and Health – and have one week to complete as many as possible. Each challenge has an assigned point value. The harder the challenge, the higher the points. Competitors submit proof of completion through photos, videos, and email and SQB keeps a running tally.
The MashUp Challenge is any team’s to win.
The only question is how badly do you want it?
A Note From Our Program Director
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 Brooks and Phillips, our commitment to the students and families we work with has not diminished. At least twice every week we are in touch with every students, checking in on mental and physical health, and ensuring students are on top of schoolwork while at home. This, in addition to regular communication with families, teachers, and our 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 Lawrence will continue to dedicate our time and efforts to serving our 120 youth in the city in the best way we know how. For now, enjoy some highlights from the winter months. We hope we’ll have more to add before too long.
Program Director, Lawrence
A Busy Summer to Look Forward To
For the past 5 years, the Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) has been partnering with private schools and universities around the country to provide scholarships for intensive, high quality summer education programs. SEA serves 23 member programs, which together provide academic opportunity and health and wellness to over 2500 young people. This year SEA partnered with 13 private schools and universities to provide 60 scholarships for summer education. Five students from SQB Lawrence were nominated to compete for these scholarships. They spent long hours working on applications and crafting their essays, with no small amount of help from the SQB staff. Congratulations to the three Lawrence students who were granted scholarships –
Adrian Diaz , 9th grade, will be attending Summer@Brown at Brown University
Nuelly Silva, 10th grade, will be attending Andover Summer at Phillips Academy Andover
Orfi Cortes, 7th grade, will be attending Taft Summer School at the Taft School in Connecticut
We are so excited for them and these new opportunities!
SQB Lawrence Gives Back
Developing compassionate and engaged young citizens is the heart and soul of SquashBusters Lawrence. Each year we work hard to expose our students to community service projects and public service agencies with different missions, each striving to make a difference on an individual level and in the community at large. This year alone, SQB Lawrence high school students worked alongside thousands of fellow volunteers at the city’s annual Spicket River Cleanup, and they worked together to maintain the cleanliness of the Ferrous Park, Immigrant Place Park, and O’Neill Park.
During February break (which seems like a life-time ago), students had the opportunity to serve meals to those less fortunate at the city’s well-known meal center, Cor Unum. Cor Unum first opened its doors in September of 2006 with a mission to eliminate hunger every day. The agency has become admired by city residents. It successfully served over two million meals in its first decade, and is striving to beat that record amount in its second. Eager to be a part of the vision, SquashBusters students used their service opportunity to welcome guests, place meal orders, distribute food and beverages to tables, and wash and sanitize eating utensils. Keep it up SQB Lawrence!
A Slamming Squash Season
Until the quarantine, SQB students were fully immersed in the squash season with many, many opportunities! SQB Lawrence traveled to Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and all over Massachusetts to compete. The middle school team faced many tough competitors and some notable teams including SQB Boston, Portland Community Squash, Rectory, Eaglebrook, Lawrence Academy, and Nashoba Brooks. The team did not get the wins they were hoping for, but they enjoyed the travel, camaraderie, and competition. Students also took part in a number of US squash tournaments this year. A highlight was INFINITUM Bronze, where eighth-grader Maria Munoz finished second in a pool of 16 girls.
We were fortunate to be able to attend our biggest tournament of the year, the SEA Urban Team Nationals (UTN), which took place in March shortly before the quarantine began. UTN was hosted by Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall. SQB Lawrence brought 25 eager students, who joined more than 75 other SQB students from Boston and Providence. UTN was a great opportunity for our students to hang out with each other on and off court and staff welcomed the chance to to bring students together to foster team culture and team bonding.
The high school girls and boys competed in the A draw and each finished in the top 5. The middle school team competed against teams from across the country including, Connecticut, Chicago, New York, and Baltimore. Rounding out the weekend the middle school girls finished fourth in the competition and were excited to be one of the few SquashBusters teams to play in the Sunday playoffs. A huge thanks to SEA for providing this opportunity for our students to explore the world of squash, deepen their connections as a team, and make friends with other students from around the world.
Now in its seventh year, the 2019 SquashBusters MashUp presented by Anbaric raised a record setting total of $420,000 on Sunday, December 8, thanks to the incredible generosity of over 700 squash-friendly supporters in the Merrimack Valley, Boston and New England and corporate sponsors Brown Brothers Harriman, Floyd Advisory, Newmark Knight Frank, Westfield Capital Management, Bank of New England, Ipswich Bay Glass, Plymouth REIT, and Uberdoc. The event comes at an important juncture, as SquashBusters Lawrence is on the verge of breaking ground on a permanent home in partnership with Merrimack College.
The 2019 MashUp enjoyed two flights of platform tennis once again at North Andover Country Club, and a full afternoon of squash, hospitality, and presentations for the first time at the beautiful new, 12-court Palfrey Pavilion in the Snyder Center at Phillips Academy Andover. Special thanks goes out to the Karlen family for encouraging Andover to host the MashUp and to Doug Burbank and Brooks School for being gracious hosts for the past six fabulous years.
More than 150 players, guests, sponsors and friends filled the venues. The crowd was treated to a moving set of remarks by SQB Lawrence senior Arianny Acosta, who has applied early to Yale University. This poised, energetic and well-spoken young woman bowled over the packed audience with her remarks, insight, and humor. Over at the platform tennis courts, an equally inspiring story was shared by Leo Mirabal, who is hoping to enroll at Merrimack in the fall.
All four 18-player teams that convened for the celebration and friendly competition were led by an elite squash pro and two platform pros. Seven amateurs, Brooks and PA students and SQB students rounded out the teams.
USA No. 1 squash player Todd Harrity and paddle stars Johan du Randt and Bill Power headed captain Jon Karlen’s Andover Academics.
Current New Zealand No. 2 squash star Campbell Grayson, and paddle pros Ramon Rodriguez and Tim Stonecipher led captain Bruce Landay’s and Bill Paine’s Merrimack Volley.
American squash star Chris Hanson, currently No. 65 on the PSA World Tour, and paddle pros Leo Power and Scott Staniar helmed captain Henry White’s Essex County Nicks.
Arthur Gaskin, Ireland No. 1 and head pro at Nicol Squash Club at SQB Providence, and paddle pros Admire Mushonga and Scott Slobin took the reins of captain John Manning’s Lawrence Legion.
After two waves of brisk platform tennis and three hours of spirited squash, four-time champions Andover Academics retained the podium with a convincing 50 point score, outdistancing second-place finisher Essex County Nicks by a whopping 17 points. Kiwi Campbell Grayson defeated American Chris Hanson in the Pro final 2-0.
After bestowing the 2019 Golden Mill award for a top team fundraising total of $89,000 to Volley Captains Landay and Paine, SquashBusters Founder and Executive Director Greg Zaff concluded the day by reminding guests and players about the value of saying “yes”. “We ask,” he said, “But you don’t have to say yes…and many don’t. But we are here and moving forward because so many of you do. Thank you.”
To see more photos of the day, visit our Flickr album.
SQB Class of 2026 Is Almost Here
The recruitment process started in early September, when SquashBusters staff introduced themselves and the game of squash to over 200 students at the Arlington and Wetherbee Middle Schools during gym class. Since then, the group has been narrowed to 21 committed and enthusiastic students. They have all been attending practices at Brooks School twice a week with the goal of becoming full time members of the SQB team. We’re looking forward to final decisions being announced just before winter break at our 6th grade potluck event to welcome our newest members to the team!
In addition to the typical middle school recruitment process, twelve high school students from Notre Dame Cristo Rey have been working hard on court and in the classroom in a bid to join the program. These additional students have helped to further reinforce growing ties between SquashBusters and Notre Dame, one of our strongest partner schools. We’re thrilled to be able to welcome more students on the high school team and eager to integrate their strengths into our already thriving program!
SQB in the Community
SquashBusters Lawrence has been all around the city this fall, participating in five different community service projects during the first few months of programming. Middle-schoolers took advantage of the nice weather at the beginning of the year to help pick vegetables at Costello Park, an urban farm that provides fresh produce to local soup kitchens and food pantries. Students remarked that they enjoyed “getting their hands dirty” and were thrilled to be able to take some of the vegetables home with them.
Another project of note was the Spicket River Clean Up – a full program effort in which 60 students volunteered to help keep the local waterway clean. Not only was this an opportunity to help make an impact in our own community, but also a chance to get nearly the full team together to kick off another great year at SQB. The day was a resounding success and many left excited to find more opportunities to keep the city looking beautiful!
Squash Season Begins
Two regional Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) tournaments served as highlights for our fall squash calendar. The SEA Northeast Regionals, hosted at Yale University, was a tremendous opportunity for players to compete against some of the very best players in New England. The high school boys and girls teams both competed in the A draw. Though neither team walked away from the weekend with a victory, they were thrilled to be part of the tournament. Several players did secure a individual victories. The middle school teams enjoyed a little more success, with the middle school boys being denied first place in their division only by their teammates from Providence.
The second tournament, hosted by Capitol Squash at Trinity College, was an opportunity for many of our youngest players to take part in their first big tournament. An intrepid crew of 10 seventh graders traveled to Connecticut to compete in the Middle School Northeast Team Regional tournament. The students again competed hard and were thrilled to be able to enjoy a day with teammates from the other two SquashBusters sites and to be able make new friends from other Urban Squash programs from across the region. These two tournaments undoubtedly gave our students the experience and confidence to find success in the upcoming months to come!