Improve the High School Graduation Rate College Enrollment Rate and College GraduationRate | City of Ideas

Posted 12/21/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
The need this grant addresses is the essential importance of improving three educational statistics that promise to have bearing on the future of our community. They are the high school graduation rate, college enrollment rate and college graduation rate for Boston Public School students. According to recent studies by the Boston Private Industry Council and Northeastern University, the best available data indicate that only 60% of all BPS high school students graduate from high school; only 39% of this cohort then elects to enroll in college; and finally that only 25% of this even smaller group successfully graduates from college four years later.
If higher educational attainment rates for the vast majority of young people living in Boston are not reached, the health, hopes and productivity of our urban community will be undermined.

Project Proposed:
SquashBusters has been a programmatic antidote to this problem for seventeen years.
SquashBusters long-term goals are to ensure that all of its graduates:
1. Enroll in and successfully complete college
2. Understand and embrace life-long habits of health and wellness
3. Develop a deep sense of character and personal integrity
Our sports-based enrichment program works intensively in a multi-dimensional way on the development of the whole person. SquashBusters immerses youth in a 100 day per school year in squash, homework help, college prep, community service, and cultural travel to inspire young people about the world and their own place within it and to nurture and build each person's confidence, academic capacity, and physical well-being.
During the school year, our after-school program students spend a minimum of 264 hours during week day practices at our youth center, volunteer in the community for another 10 hours and participate to a minimum of 3 squash competitions. 
-Each student practices three times a week for the 33 week school-year season
-Homework time takes place twice a week for 75 minutes each
-Enrichment time for our 7th & 8th grade students consists of 60 minutes per week and includes Study skills, Vocabulary building, Communication & Relationships building, Healthy Living, Goal setting and College aspiration
-Three practices a week are dedicated to fitness and the game of squash.
-One additional, optional, fourth practice a week (Saturday) is dedicated to an intense “AP Squash”: a college-like squash team made up of high school students who maintain 90% attendance level and receive no D’s on report card, and show excellent effort in practice.
Squash, to a greater extent than most other sports, builds bridges to tremendous educational opportunity. It does so in several ways:
-Students gain exposure to college students and college campuses they would not come into contact with without squash. This happens through tournament play, volunteer contact  (some of which include SquashBusters alumni enrolled at Northeastern University) and of course the fact that our youth center is located on Northeastern University.
-Students of color who excel in squash and demonstrate the ability to compete collegiately often succeed in getting admitted and funded by squash colleges, provided that their grades are good.  We currently have 9 alumni playing squash in the following colleges: Bates, Boston University (2), Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Harvard, Hobart and Northeastern.
-Squash also builds the same character traits that young people must have to do well in school. Some of these include grit, concentration, patience, and humility.
-Squash contributes to student health and fitness.

Role of Collaboration:
SquashBusters partners with Northeastern University (NEU ).  Northeastern's Board of Trustees and President agreed to donate the land for a new building, grant SquashBusters a 99-year free lease, and assume all management and financial responsibilities for the facility. In return, SquashBusters raised the funds necessary to support the construction of the building on Columbus Avenue. Construction began in the spring of 2002; the facility opened in July 2003 with eight squash courts, three classrooms, and office space for all staff. Other benefits for SquashBusters include NEU tutors, squash volunteers and interns, SquashBusters alumni enrolled and playing on the squash team,  Boston Public School and SquashBusters students exposed to campus life, and IT support and training.
We also partner with two Boston Public Schools (BPS).  We recruit our 7 grade students from the James P. Timilty Middle School and from the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science.  Our high school program includes students from 17 Boston public high schools (Burke, Boston Latin Academy, City on a Hill, Edward M. Kennedy Academy for the Health Careers, Madison Park, etc.). 
Our relationship with the Timilty School stretches back to the founding of SquashBusters seventeen years ago.  The teachers and principal know the program well and have unequivocally supported us.  Similarly, we recruit additional seven grade students from the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science.
Today, thanks to these collaborations, SquashBusters serves 144 6th-12th grade Boston Public School students during the school year, each of whom benefits from individualized academic, athletic, and personal support three days a week, for up to seven years.

The Collaborate Boston prize will contribute to support 28 students (black & brown young men from Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester, age 12-15) to stay in school and aspire to go to college.
These young men will benefit from the following activities:
Tutoring and Academic Enrichment: High School Selection & Placement, Study Skills, Public Speaking
Community Service: 10 hours of service to organizations such as Susan Bailis Assisted Living, Christmas in the City, Franklin Park, Rebuilding Boston Together, Greater Boston Food Bank, AIDS Walk Boston, etc.
Squash Instruction and Competitions: Practice squash skills with coaches, volunteers, and college squash teams such as Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern, etc., Matches with private school teams such as Brooks School, Phillips Academy Andover, Milton Academy, Fessenden, Nobles, St. Mark’s, Fessenden, etc., US Squash sanctioned tournaments
Healthy Living: Physically engaging and fun activities (yoga, jogging, dance, Kung Fu, Tae Bo, capoeira, lacrosse), Nutrition curriculum
Summer Opportunities: Academic-based camps, Sports-based camps, Summer jobs or internships.

Other information:
Since SquashBusters founding in 1996, college success has been the program's centerpiece. For those who stay committed for their full middle and high school tenure, 100% graduate high school. 97% then enroll in college, and 87% of this group select a four year college or university. Four years later, 64% earn their bachelor's degree. 92% of them graduate from a four year college.

Since 1996, 87% of SquashBusters’ alumni have gone to colleges, including Bates College, Boston University, Brown University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Simmons College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, Smith College, Hamilton College, Boston College, Oberlin College, Tufts University and Bryn Mawr.
-76% matriculated to a 4 year college
-24% matriculated to a 2 year college

Primary Contact:
Greg Zaff, Founder and CEO, SquashBusters

SquashBusters was founded in 1996 by Greg Zaff, a former squash professional, as the first after-school program of its kind in the United States.  The organization’s aim was to serve disadvantaged kids in the Boston Public Schools through the most crucial years of their development, and help them grow to lead healthy lives.  For the first seven years, SquashBusters borrowed court and classroom space from the Harvard Club and the YMCA in Boston.  In 2003, the SquashBusters Youth Center opened an eight-court, three-classroom facility built in partnership with Northeastern University, thereby tripling the number of students served. 
The success of our model has been recognized and nationally replicated, sparking an urban squash movement coast to coast as SquashBusters was an active initiator in creating national association with our sister organizations – The National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA).  Today, there are twelve urban squash and education programs coast to coast that impact the lives of over 1,000 students.

Partner 1:
Peter Roby, Athletic Director, Northeastern University

Peter Roby, like Richard Freeland, has been instrumental in the founding and nurturing of the partnership with Northeastern University.  Thanks to Peter Roby's support, SquashBusters and Northeastern have collaborated on many fronts.  The latest initiative involves the College of Professional Studies and aims to enroll alumni and ensure they secure the remaining academic credits necessary to earn their bachelor’s degree.
Peter Roby joined SquashBusters' Board of Directors the day SquashBustes moved into its new Youth Center on NU campus in 2003.  Since then, Peter has been the program's largest advocate and bridge builder within the University.  Northeastern now has a vibrant squash team upon which a few SquashBuster graduates have played; dozens of NU students have volunteered and the University has hosted numerous junior, intercollegiate, and professional squash tournaments - all of this the result of Peter's leadership and belief in squash and SquashBusters to improve the community.

From Peter Roby:
'SquashBusters provides children of color access to the non-traditional sport of squash and a whole community of people who can share their experiences.  These opportunities open many new pathways to college.  All you need to know about the impact of SquashBusters is to see the kinds of schools SquashBusters students attend.  Without SquashBusters, they simply wouldn't have these opportunities'.
'SquashBusters is providing a solution to some of the epidemic health issues that are plaguing this country, such as inactivity and obesity, which are especially prevalent in urban environments and communities of color'

Partner 2:
Valerie Lowe-Bahremi, Principal, James P. Timilty Middle School

Valerie Lowe-Bahremi has been the principal of the Timilty since 1989.  Born in Boston, Ms. Lowe-Barehmi attended schools here and in North Carolina before returning to teach in the Boston Public Schools. She was the first African-American female assistant headmaster for administration at the former Boston Technical High School.
SquashBusters has partnered with the Timilty middle school since its founding, seventeen years ago.
Valerie Lowe-Bahremi Testimonial:
‘There’s one athletics, academics, community service program that we have married. We’re married to this program and it’s the only one of its kind that we have and it’s the one that we want to keep’
‘SquashBusters is a diamond in our community. Their first commitment is health and wellness; yet their work around academic achievement and community service, speaks volumes.  While Squash is the vehicle for encouraging urban youth to prepare for their futures, SquashBusters keeps our students eyes on the prize through their mentor program and outreach through community service learning projects.  In return, students do well in school, and their parents’ rate of participation is higher than any other school activity.  It is also heartening to see our graduates who have remained in SquashBusters throughout high school return to notify us of scholarships and college plans each year.’
‘In my twenty-five plus years as an administrator, I have not encountered the focus, genuine caring and concern, and follow-through that SquashBusters demonstrates.  This CBO clearly has the community support to make Squash a reality for many youth and community residents who might never have had had access to the sport.  I am also pleased that they are following youngsters from middle to high school to ensure that post-secondary opportunities are not missed opportunities.’

Partner 3:
David MacLeod, Assistant Headmaster, John D. O'Bryant School of Math & Science

Since SquashBusters' founding, tens of O'Bryant students have been benefited from academic, athletic and character development support.  These students go on to enroll and graduate from outstanding education institutions, among which, Trinity College (Monete Johnson) and Wesleyan University (Carlos Richadson and Ashley Garrett).  Currently, we are serving O'Bryant seniors who are applying to colleges such as Connecticut College, Hamilton College and Hobart College.

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