SQB is Springing Forward

        

Dear Friends,

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boast-drive sessions, and chock-filled calendars of school matches, tournaments, and community service days, have been replaced by Zoom fitness classes and online tutoring, but SQB remains programmatically strong and focused.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

(Taken before SQB went virtual.)

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!

Pastelitos
Ingredients/Equipment
  • 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
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 Frying/saute pans
Preparation
  1. Chop half of the onions and half of the green or red peppers into dice-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pan on medium heat and warm it up.
  3. Once olive oil is ready, add the ground beef to the pan and start to sauté.
  4. As beef is cooking, add the onions and peppers to the pan. Add two Sazon packets, salt, black pepper and adobo to taste.
  5. Remove the ground beef from the heat
  6. 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.
  7. Add ¾ cup of vegetable oil to a sauté/frying pan on medium heat.
  8. Once the oil is hot, add the pastelitos to the pan, flip after a minute and fry until golden brown.
  9. Have a plate ready with napkins to take off the extra oil.
  10. ENJOY!!!!

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.

SquashBusters 2021 Rumble is Underway!

Presented by

 

10 days

20 Challenges

Hundreds of lives changed for the better!

 

The Rumble will look a little different this year, but the important pieces are the same.

Same competition!
Same camaraderie!
Same great cause!

Join us as a competitor or a supporter from Opening Circle on January 26 to Closing Ceremonies on February 7.

SQB Providence relies on the Rumble for half of its operating funds each year. Now more than ever, we need your support.

Visit About the Rumble Challenge to learn more about the competition, and
check out About SquashBusters to learn more about how we are working to ensure vital, face-to-face programming for our students this year.

Fall 2020 at SQB Providence

During this difficult time, SQB has made it a priority to get our students out of the house, with the main goal of having fun. Our students have met in-person 1 to 2 times a week in their PODs and they focused on their academics and bonded with their peers. They practiced their squash game, did a lot of solo drills and different types of fitness/stretches to keep them healthy and in shape, joined yoga classes, went on long walks and enjoyed fresh smoothies.

To embrace the theme of Discovery and Exploration we added weekly trips for the students to get out and try things that many had never done before – they went rock climbing, hit their first strikes in bowling, taught staff how to make family dishes and more. They even visited Dave and Busters!

 

Changes in COVID requirements in Rhode Island did not slow our students down. When we couldn’t have these cool adventures outside of SQB, students got creative and turned the classrooms into a mini arcade or an art studio. They carved their first pumpkins and built and decorated their first gingerbread houses. At the end of Season 1 our students reflected on the fact that they were just happy to be out of the house, off their screens, and seeing staff and teammates face to face. And for the staff, their curiosity, laughter and smiles are the best gifts of all.

SQB Providence Weathers the Quarantine

A Note From Our Program Director

I hope that everyone is doing well and hanging in there during this difficult time. As you know, we have suspended programming at SQB Providence, but that does not mean we’ve stopped supporting our kids. As the realities of this crisis unfold, the staff and I will continue to think about the best way we can help our students and families.

Our staff has been busy doing check-in calls with every family to see how the kids are doing mentally and physically.  We made sure that all students were able to get Google Chromebooks provided by the school, hand-delivering ones to our students who were absent when they were distributed. We have also been working hard to connect families with resources such as free internet from Comcast and lunch and dinner from Providence Public Schools.  We have been sending workouts for students to encourage them to stay fit and have been developing different challenges to encourage them to stay active. Staff will continue to do these check-ins and provide academic and social-emotional support for the duration of the quarantine.

Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help our students and each other during this scary time. I will update you as the situation evolves. As always, we are so grateful for your continued support. I hope you enjoy these highlights from earlier this season. Please take care of yourselves and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

Best,

Rodney G.


SQB Providence’s First Class of Rising High School Students!

All of our 8th graders successfully completed high school applications at the end of February for a variety of high schools in Providence. Many of our students opted for charter schools as their preferred choice and beginning in early March, students began to receive news of where they were admitted. We are excited to share that all our 8th grade students have been accepted at their first or second choice school, including Classical High School, the top high school in the state of Rhode Island. We are looking forward to seeing our 8th graders transition into high school freshman in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.


Hanging Together During the Quarantine

SquashBusters Providence students are a lot of things – kind, hardworking, and resilient to name a few. During this time of distance programming, students are now developing their executive function skills and professionalism, as well. They have been tasked with joining our SquashBusters Google Classroom to stay updated on programming, including bi-weekly video conferencing hangouts, workouts with professional squash players, and virtual tutoring. Without the luxury of the routine they know well at our building, students have created emails and are learning to check them frequently, just like their coaches have to do! Though only in middle school, the skills they are practicing right now will be critical for their time management and academic success in the future. For now, it’s helping them stay in touch with the friendly faces of their squash family.


Health

In early March, 20 SQB Providence students traveled to Connecticut for the Squash and Education Alliance Urban Team Nationals. The tournament was held at Yale University and Choate Rosemary Hall and our students had the opportunity to compete against players from all over the country. For some, it was their first trip outside Rhode Island. With participants from California to Detroit to Columbia to the Bronx, SQB students were exposed to different levels of squash and were able to meet lots and lots of new people.  Not only did they make new friends, our boys and girls team were able to compete at a high level. The Middle School Boys B team took 3rd in their division, beating MetroSquash from Chicago. They lost a very close match 3-2 , with the final individual match going to five games, but Squash Haven from Hartford, CT was able to pull off the win.  The Middle School Boys C team lost 3-2 to SquashWise from Baltimore and took second in their division.  The Girls A Team lost 3-2 in the semifinals against Squash Haven and after another close battle against CitySquash, they took fourth place in their division. Off the courts, our students loved the chance to bond with each other and with the staff, strengthen the team culture, and share new experiences.

SQB Providence Is Off to a Busy Start

Welcome Class of 2026!

The journey to welcoming the class of 2026 began back in October with gym visits to our partner school, DelSesto Middle School. After meeting every sixth grader at the school, we began tryout season with over 40 interested students and families. As the end of the tryout period neared, it was a struggle to decide which students would make up our new team. They all seemed so enthusiastic!

But SQB is a big commitment and we wanted to make sure the students we chose were up to the challenge.  So, we decided to extend tryouts to be absolutely positive about which students we wanted to join our SquashBusters family. On December 13, 2019, eighteen students earned a spot on the Class of 2026 team and were formally welcomed at our annual Christmas family potluck.

We are lucky to have such vibrant spirits join our program!

But SQB is a big commitment and we wanted to be sure about the students we chose, so after some cuts were made, we made the decision to extend tryouts to be absolutely positive about which students we wanted to join our SquashBusters family. On December 13, 2019, eighteen students earned a spot on the Class of 2026 team and were formally welcomed at our annual Christmas family potluck.

We are so lucky to have such vibrant spirits join our program!


Serving Our Community

       

SquashBusters Providence began a new community service tradition this year, inspired by Providence program Coordinator Alé Madrid’s own experience when she was an SQB student. Students were given an opportunity to be creative and write unique, honest messages from the heart, as everyone created holiday cards for the members of Arbor Hill Assisted Living Community located in the Federal Hill neighborhood.

Over two days, students created 60 handmade, one-hundred percent unique holiday cards. Students’ individual personalities really shone through and each card reflected their caring and compassionate nature. Throughout the activity, many students had pensive looks on their faces as they crafted the perfect holiday message, and they worked together and built community as they shared their own families’ traditions for celebrating the holidays.


And, Of Course, Lots of Squash

 

 

Squash is fully underway at SQB Providence. Students have already participated in several Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) tournaments. The first was the Northeast Regionals hosted by Yale University. It was an intense day of competition for all teams, and ended with our 7th grade boys earning a hard-fought victory.

A few weeks later our teams were competing again, this time at the 2019 Trinity Invitational, hosted by Capitol Squash of Hartford. Our Providence students battled it out with several other SEA teams, including both SquashBusters Lawrence and Boston. Our 8th grade girls performed phenomenally, as they pushed their opponents to five games and never gave up. Our 8th grade boys placed first in the C draw.

In 2020, our students show no signs of letting up on their hard work.

Recently at the Moses Brown Junior Bronze Tournament, we had three students earn top honors – Natalia Otero took first place in girls U15, Cristel Diaz took third place in girls U15, and Matthyaz Williams took second place in boys U13.

Next up? SEA’s Urban Team Nationals hosted by Yale University this March.

SQB Providence Rocks Another Rumble – Raises over $275,000!

   

Providence was definitely ready to rumble again on January 25th when more than 150 supporters filled SquashBusters Providence at Moses Brown’s Gorgi Center for the second annual SquashBusters Rumble, presented by Bank of America. They were treated to an exciting day of amateur and professional squash that featured the greatest collection of international squash stars ever gathered in Rhode Island. The event was held to raise critical funds for SQB Providence, which is now serving almost 60 Providence youth, and garnered over $277,000, thanks in part to corporate sponsors Parsons KelloggBrown Brothers HarrimanWestfield Capital Management, and Hall Capital Management Company.

Squash Legends Ramy Ashour, Nick Matthew and Peter Nicol, who boast seven individual World Championship titles between them, and Irish No. 1 Arthur Gaskin thrilled the Rumble players and guests with outstanding squash and highly entertaining banter throughout the day.  Each star led one of four teams comprised of 10 singles and 3 doubles players that battled all afternoon to amass “Wave” points and attempt to win the coveted Rumble trophy.

    

Reprising his World Wrestling Entertainment opening, host John Nimick again donned a shoe-length black leather coat and slick sunglasses to belt out a thirty second “Are you ready to Rumble?” before referencing the venue as Zaffer’s Palace, in a tribute to SquashBusters founder Greg Zaff and his vision to bring SquashBusters to Providence.  Nimick carried on to introduce the pros by their popular nicknames -King Arthur Gaskin playing for the Kilts, Nick “The Wolf” Matthew playing for the Rhode Warriors, Ramy “The Artist” Ashour playing for the Sharks, and Bonny Prince Peter Nicol playing for Off the Rails.

While Peter Gemma and Paul Salem’s Rhode Warriors and new Captain Stefano Crema and Julie Andrews’ Off The Rails battled valiantly, it was Tom Kellogg and Gaskin’s Kilts and Habib Gorgi and Bill Hatfield’s Sharks that went the distance as they entered the Pro round robin separated by a single point.  In the end, first-time SquashBusters supporter Ramy Ashour carried the Sharks to the 2020 title by winning his last two games over Arthur Gaskin and Nick Matthew, edging the Kilts in the end one point.

Guest were treated to delicious food and drink by Providence’s own Plant City. But the individual who stole the show was SquashBusters seventh-grader, Isabel Perez Comacho, who overcame some jitters to speak movingly to the crowd about her journey to find confidence, explore new horizons and play better squash. Program Director and SquashBusters alumnus Rodney Galvao introduced Isabel with glowing and humorous insights and also reminded the crowd of the profound impact SQB has had on his life.

       

Founder Greg Zaff concluded the 2020 Rumble by thanking and recognizing Habib Gorgi, Bill Hatfield and their team of Sharks as the top fundraisers of 2020, awarding them the Tidal Wave trophy to match their championship trophies. He then brought the day to a fitting close by thanking all participants – Rumble players, volunteers and donors – for their generosity and passion to see a better future for every SquashBusters student.

To see more pictures of the day, click here.