8th Annual Citizenship Tour Concludes with Dr. Michael Lomax and Keith Wofford

It was an inspiring and thought-provoking week for our Citizenship Tour students. On Thursday, the group had their final round of speaker meetings with Dr. Michael Lomax, President and CEO of United Negro College Fund, and Keith Wofford, an SEA Board Member and Partner at global law firm White & Case.

UNCF is the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to African American students and Dr. Lomax has served as its leader since 2004. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans, a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, and served as chairman of the Fulton County Commission in Atlanta, the first African American elected to that post.

The son of a journalist and a lawyer, Lomax spoke to our group about growing up during the civil rights movement in Los Angeles and Atlanta, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, and more. “I’ve been a witness to history and on occasion been involved in making history,” Lomax reflected.

Lomax encouraged our students to remain active in their communities. “We all have a responsibility to be civically engaged. We get the democracy that we create.”

Our final conversation of the Tour was with Keith Wofford. Wofford grew up in Buffalo, NY, has practiced law for more than 25 years, and is currently partner of global law firm White & Case’s Financial Restructuring and Insolvency Practice in New York. Wofford serves as a member of SEA’s Board of Directors and the New York Historical Society. In 2018, Wofford ran for NY Attorney General.

Wofford spoke with our group about his upbringing in Buffalo, his experiences as an attorney, and his perspectives on such topics such as education and criminal justice reform.

Wofford also offered some advice to our students. “Don’t be afraid to have a position because it’s unpopular,” and “You’ve got to figure out how to be bad at something long enough to get good at it,” he said.

Inspiring Conversations with Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine

What a week it has been! Following Tuesday’s journalism conversations, our Tour students spent Wednesday with two inspiring public officials — Former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

The first woman to hold such a post in North Dakota, Heitkamp reflected candidly on her experience as a woman in law and politics. She spoke about discovering environmentalism while at Lewis & Clark College, her work with the EPA, and more. “Once you catch the bug, you never lose it,” Heitkamp said. “You never lose the passion for that work.”

Our students asked Heitkamp about noteable moments in her career, such as her vote against the appointment of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “You survive losing an election, but you don’t survive when you compromise your values,” Heitkamp explained. Senator Heitkamp has met with our students in person in years past, and we were so grateful to have her back with us this summer.

Wednesday’s second session was with D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. Born in Haiti, Attorney General Racine spoke about his identity as an immigrant, an identity that some of our Tour students share. Racine spoke about his legal career, his perspectives on issues around education and mental health, and his passion for sports.

In addition to fueling his love for competition, “sports awakened me to the inequities and disparities all around me,” Racine shared.

“AG Racine was one of the impactful speakers for me because he had this humbleness to him,” said Ku of Capitol Squash. “It was insightful to see how he tries to understand everyone and their perspective.”

Citizenship Tour Students Cover All Things Journalism with Speakers from The New York Times, NBC News, and The Atlantic

Our Citizenship Tour students had a packed day of conversations on Tuesday, speaking with New York Times Opinion Special Projects Editor Meeta Agrawal, Pulitzer Prize winning critic Wesley Morris, NBC News Anchor Lester Holt, Senior Director of NBC News Brett Holey, and National Editor at The Atlantic Scott Stossel.

During the day’s first meeting with The New York Times, Wesley Morris and Meeta Agrawal spoke about their journalism careers and the power of art and pop culture to shape and reflect our values. “The way that I see the world and the things that I find interesting are different than some of my colleagues,” reflected Agrawal, who previously served as Deputy Editor at Entertainment Weekly and Arts & Leisure Editor at the NYT. Morris spoke about his interest in “how to use criticism morally, how to talk about the ways in which art and popular culture shape our values, reflect our values, and the ways in which it can be gatekept.”

Our second session of the day was with NBC News Anchor Lester Holt and Senior Director at NBC News Brett Holey. We were fortunate to be able to speak with Holt before he headed to Tokyo to cover the Summer Olympics!

He spoke to our group about his career path, the importance of journalism today, his experiences covering the pandemic, and more. “Compassion to me is a very big part of what we do,” reflected Holt. “We parachute ourselves into people at the lowest points of their lives and I try to approach these stories with some humility and compassion.” When speaking about the pandemic Holt noted, “I’ve covered some of the worst tragedies, but this was the first time I was covering a story for which I was feeling the same threat as the people I was talking to. We were, and to some extent are, all in this together.”

We wrapped up our busy Tuesday with a conversation with Scott Stossel, National Editor at The Atlantic. Stossel shared some history about the magazine, its abolitionist roots, and then reflected on his personal career. Our students were also particularly curious to hear Stossel’s perspectives on mental health. In addition to editing at The Atlantic, Stossel is the author of the New York Times bestseller My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.

It was an inspiring and insightful day that left our students with lots to think about!

A highlight for Alana from Racquet Up Detroit was hearing Agrawal’s and Morris’ recommendations. “To uplift Asian Americans after the recent rise of hate crimes, we got the inside scoop on films that Meeta Agrawal and Wesley Morris find very interesting that features and/or highlights Asian-Americans.”

Students Discuss Identity with Wade Davis, Former NFL Player and VP of Inclusion for Product at Netflix

Our Citizenship Tour students embarked on their second day of conversations yesterday, speaking with Former NFL Player Wade Davis, who currently serves as the Vice President of Inclusion Strategy for Product at Netflix.

Davis has consulted with Google, MTV/VH1, 21st Century Fox, AppNexus and others to build inclusive corporate culture and has worked with senior leaders to adapt their leadership styles to meet the needs of their employees.

Davis spoke to our group about his experiences growing up in Shreveport, IL and Aurora, CO, going to school in Utah, and the ways in which he had to “unlearn and relearn” how he saw other people and himself. Davis spoke about his identities as a Black gay man from the South, how he feels being an athlete gave him social capital, and how studying feminism “gave [him] the language wrestle with [his] identity.”

In the videos below, Tour students Alana from Racquet Up Detroit and Caiynin from Squash Haven reflect on the conversation with Davis.

Students Kick-Off Tour Meetings with Patrick Williams and Tim Wyant

Our Citizenship Tour students began their first day of conversations yesterday, speaking with SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant and SquashDrive Executive Director Patrick Williams. Our group left these talks inspired by the stories of these leaders and their commitments to strengthening the SEA network and bettering their communities.

“I feel inspired and grateful to see how Tim and Pat are both making big differences to bring equal opportunities to our community and people of color.” – Ku, Capitol Squash.

Patrick Williams is an alumnus of SquashBusters and the first graduate of an SEA program to become an executive director in the network. A first-generation graduate of Bates College, Patrick spent his career working in youth development before joining SquashDrive as ED in 2020.

Patrick spoke about how SquashBusters introduced him to community service, exposed him to kids of different races and zip codes, and taught him that “Character defines the kind of person that you are or will be.” His words of wisdom for the Tour students? “Your voice is really powerful. It’s only not powerful when you don’t use it.”

“I feel very motivated and a lot more comfortable to ask questions and in the squash community in general. When we spoke to Pat, I noticed how relatable his background is to mine. His process and experience of joining squash is practically identical to my discovery of squash and how I got involved.” – Caiynin, Squash Haven

Tim Wyant co-founded SEA in 2005 and became Executive Director in 2012. Previously, Tim was the founding executive director of CitySquash, the country’s fourth squash and education program, which operates in the Bronx and Brooklyn.


On Day 2, Tour Students Reflect on Civic Issues That Matter to Them

In preparation for the Citizenship Tour, participants were asked to reflect on a topic that is important to them, their connection to the issue, and how they’d like to bring that subject to the attention of the public figures and leaders they’ll be speaking with on the Tour. Yesterday, students presented vision boards about these issues to their peers.

Chelsea from Squash Haven spoke about the importance of access to education for students of color.
Diana, also of Squash Haven, spoke about climate change. “We’re never too small to make a change,” she reminded her peers.

Through these early discussions, our students are also getting to know one another better. Cincinnati Squash Academy student Alecia spoke with Tony of Oakland’s SquashDrive about himself and the topic he chose. “Tony is a rising senior from Oakland, CA,” Alecia shared. “He has been with SquashDrive since the 5th grade. Some of his interests are playing soccer, playing guitar, and doing stunts.” The topic Tony chose to present on is veteran homelessness.

“Essentially, what I was saying was that veteran homelessness is a very real problem,” Tony explained. “The one word that comes to mind when I think about it is disrespectful because they have done so much for us, whether we know about it or not, and they deserve so much better.”

We look forward to continuing these discussions on important topics that our students are passionate about in the coming days of the Tour. Tomorrow, our group will be speaking with SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant and Patrick Williams, the Executive Director of SquashDrive.

“Tim Wyant is the co-founder of our program SEA and was the former Executive Director of City Squash from 2002-2013,” said Capitol Squash student Angelina. “I am excited to talk with him and ask him questions! I am also very excited to get to speak with Patrick Williams. He was the first SEA alum to serve as the Executive Director for SquashDrive in Oakland, CA. I can’t wait to ask him about that!”

The 2021 Citizenship Tour Begins!

Yesterday was the first day of SEA’s eighth annual Citizenship Tour! 13 high schoolers and four college students from 12 cities met over Zoom to kick off the experience. Over the next two weeks, the participants will meet with leaders in government, journalism, the nonprofit sector, law, and more. The group began preparing for next week’s lineup of speakers, getting to know each other, and discussing the topics that they are passionate about.

“I’m really excited about the Tour because even on the first day I’ve heard so many great ideas and thoughts that were so interesting. I’m really looking forward to having a place where my voice will be heard! For the next two weeks, I plan to have an open mindset while listening to the panelists.” – Angelina, CitySquash

2021 Tour Participants

Alana – Racquet Up Detroit
Alecia – Cincinnati Squash Academy
Angelina A. – CitySquash
Angelina W. – Capitol Squash
Antonio – SquashDrive
Caiynin – Squash Haven
Chelsea – Squash Haven
Diana P. – Squash Haven
Dianna R. – SquashSmarts
Justice – Steel City Squash
Karolina -CitySquash
Ku – Capitol Squash
Melisa – Santa Barbara School of Squash

2021 Tour Counselors

Savoy Adams, SquashWise, Loyola College ‘23
Leslie Anguiano, Street Squash, CUNY Hunter College ‘22
Felipe De La Cruz, Access Youth Academy, Trinity College ’22
Katelyn Simmons, SquashDrive, Hampton University ‘23

2021 Tour Speakers

Meeta Agrawal
Special Projects Editor, The New York Times Opinion

Wade Davis
Vice President of Inclusion Strategy for Product, Netflix

Heidi Heitkamp
Former Senator of North Dakota

Brett Holey
Director and Senior Broadcast Producer, NBC News

Lester Holt
Anchor, NBC News

Michael Lomax
President and CEO, United Negro College Fund 

Wesley Morris
Critic at Large, The New York Times

Karl Racine
Attorney General for the District of Columbia

Scott Stossel
National Editor, The Atlantic

Keith Wofford
Partner, White & Case

Friday, July 24 – Final Day of 2020 Tour Features Conversations with Franklin Leonard and Jennifer Wynn

Our students headed into the last day of the Tour reflecting on the many insightful conversations they’ve had and eager to learn more in the final stretch.

We began our day meeting with Franklin Leonard, a film producer, cultural commentator, professor, and the founder of the Black List. The Black List aims to celebrate and support great screenwriting and releases a yearly publication featuring Hollywood’s most popular unproduced screenplays. The screenplays of four of the past 12 Oscar Best Picture winners came from The Black List.

Franklin grew up in Georgia and went on to earn his B.A. from Harvard. He previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Creative Arts Agency. Our students asked Franklin about navigating the entertainment industry as a person of color and his favorite shows and movies to watch. Franklin encouraged our students to always ask questions and to find people in their lives they can trust when things get difficult. “Asking questions is the best way to lay bare the hypocrisy at the core of any system of oppression,” Franklin says. 

In our second meeting of the day and final conversation of the Tour, we spoke with Jennifer Wynn, Director of Education at the Obama Foundation. Jennifer leads a team to design in-person and digital learning for active citizenship. Prior to working at the Obama Foundation, Jennifer has worked at McKinsey & Company, developed courses for MBA students at NYU, and founded a middle school where she served as Director of Curriculum Management. Her passion for leadership, education, and management were clear from our conversation with her. She encouraged our students to “continue to be unapologetic” and “trust your voice and share it.” 

“You are the future and I am so thankful for that,” Jennifer said at the close of the meeting.

Following the final speaker meeting, our group huddled up one last time to reflect on their inspiring week together. When asked to describe their peers on the Tour, here’s what a few of our students had to say:

“Visionary. We know what kind of future we want and we are driven towards making that future a reality.” – Adriana, Capitol Squash

“Passionate, diverse, intelligent and driven students who will most definitely be the strong leaders of tomorrow.” – Abigail, Access Youth Academy 

“Advocates for the causes we believe in” – Alana, Racquet Up Detroit

“Persistent” – Jada, MetroSquash

Thursday, July 23 – Students Spend Day Four with Wes Moore, Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas

It’s hard to believe that we are over halfway through the 2020 Tour! Today was a busy day and we met with three incredible speakers – Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore, Former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO Admiral James Stavridis, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Wes, who grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx (both home to SEA member programs), spoke about his current work leading Robin Hood, one of the biggest anti-poverty forces in the country, his work as an author, and his passion for providing people with sustainable economic mobility. Sporting a shirt that read #MeantForMore, he reminded our students that they are meant for more and “have an opportunity to walk down whatever path fulfills” them. “The meeting made me realize how much my youth voice matters in today’s society especially with the issues currently going on right now,” says Jada, rising high school junior from Chicago’s MetroSquash. Throughout the conversation, our students asked questions of Wes about his bestselling book The Other Wes Moore, his perspective on the complex ties between race and class, and more. It was a pleasure to speak with Wes and hear his story.

We were grateful to have Admiral James Stavridis speak with our group again this year. Admiral Stavridis met with our students on last year’s Tour and gave a keynote address at our reception. He kicked off the meeting by showing off his old school squash racquet! He went on to give our students the following pieces of advice: to continue to stay active though playing squash and other sports, to be involved in public service, and to own their education, even when they’re no longer in school. Students asked the Admiral questions about the culture of the military, his experience being vetted as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, and relations between the U.S. and China. Admiral Stavirdis left us with some inspiring parting words — “a leader is a dealer in hope,” he said.

Our third and final meeting of the day was with Alejandro Mayorkas. Alejandro is Cuban-American and his family came to the U.S. as political refugees. He is a lawyer and served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. He’s currently a partner at WilmerHale. Alejandro and his wife Tanya hosted our group at their home on last year’s Tour. Tanya, who also has a background in law, joined in our conversation today as well. The Mayorkas’ spoke to our students about the importance of resolve, hard work, and education, and the variety of paths one can take to make a difference in the world. Our students had a lot of questions related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Alejandro helped develop and implement during his time as the Director of the Department’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.The group also discussed the current wave of activism and the Black Lives Matter protests. 

“I enjoyed today’s meetings with Wes Moore, Admiral Stavridis, and Alejandro and Tanya Mayorkas, who all shared a common and true belief that the future is in the hands of the youth,” says Julissa of Capitol Squash. “We will definitely hold on to the words of advice that we received today, and we are so thankful to our speakers for their time and thoughts.”

“I am not only excited to see the new and last speakers but to see what will happen after the Citizenship Tour,” says Ivett, a Santa Barbara School of Squash student. “Will I have changed my mind? Will I have a new perspective?”

Wednesday, July 22 – Students Meet with Former Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick and Advocacy Leader Nisha Agarwal

Wednesday kicked off with a meeting with former Masshachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick was the first African American governor of the state, was the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division under President Bill Clinton, and ran for President in 2020. Patrick attended Milton Academy for high school and went on to attend Harvard for undergraduate and law school. Governor Patrick spoke about community and the importance of education, innovation, and infrastructure. He answered students’ questions about healthcare, incarceration, and the need for a liveable wage. Governor Patrick also shared with our students about his transition to Milton Academy coming from the south side of Chicago and the feeling of “straddling two worlds.”

The day’s second session featured an enlightening conversation with Nisha Agarwal. Nisha is the former Senior Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives in NYC and current Deputy Executive Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, an organization providing legal advocacy for refugees and displaced people. A child of Indian immigrants, Nisha grew up in Syracuse, NY and went on to attend Harvard College, Oxford University, St. Antony’s College, and eventually Harvard Law School. Nisha spoke to our students about her passion for advocacy and policy, and the work IRAP is doing locally and globally to help refugees. Our students’ Q&A touched on issues such as DACA, climate change, and defunding the police.