Day 8: CT ’18 Comes to a Close


Today was the last day of Citizenship Tour 2018 and it ended with students having the opportunity to talk to, and hit a few points with, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Gillibrand was an inspiring meeting for our students to end on, as she reminded us to work hard to make change and to stay true to our core values, even in the face of opposition.

As I reflect on Citizenship Tour 2018, I realize that it was was even more of a success than I could possibly have imagined when it began last Tuesday.

This is the case because our students did more than talk about making change– they actually made change by forming meaningful relationships. In these relationships students supported, empowered, and respected each other in ways that left me feeling inspired and humbled. Students openly talked about their differences, learned from them, and came to truly love one another. Through these relationships, our students provided each other with the safety net needed to allow each other to grow, and grow they did.

In some way, each and every student stepped outside of their comfort zone– whether it was asking an important and challenging question when they were nervous, riding the subway when they’d never been before, or talking honestly about a personal challenge that they struggle with, every student took a risk and felt the growing pains that come with change, all because they knew that when they turned around, they would find themselves among friends.

We often think of engaged citizenship as something that requires large efforts, lots of money, or power. However, this Citizenship Tour showed how being an engaged citizen often starts simply with listening, affording every individual the dignity and respect that they deserve, and being a friend.

It has been my pleasure to be the Education and Communications Director for Citizenship Tour 2018. I look forward to seeing what our students, and the students of future Citizenship Tours, will accomplish with all that they have learned here.



Day 7: Senators, and Representatives, and The New Yorker, Oh My!

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Today was another busy day in the life of a Citizenship Tour student!

We were up early and out the door to start our mornings with a tour of the Capitol– seeing where Abraham Lincoln’s desk used to be, rubbing our feet on lucky stones, and learning all kinds of information about our nation’s capital that we never knew before.

We then headed to a meeting with Representative Lee Zeldin, enjoying the balmy DC weather along the way.  Representative Zeldin talked to us about the trajectory of his career, his family, and how he still gets a special feeling when he sees the Capitol and thinks of the work that takes place there.

Next, we had an amazing and inspiring conversation with Senator Corey Booker, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Senator Tim Scott. They motivated us with their success stories, all of which were fraught with challenges and set backs, and which reminded us that sometimes the odds are against us, but this never means we should give in. Instead, we should keep our goals in mind, try a different idea, and reach another three inches higher.

Students then had the opportunity to meet some amazing urban squash supporters at a reception at Squash on Fire. Here students had the opportunity to talk to Evan Osnos, a journalist from The New Yorker (As well as the evening’s keynote speaker) and learn more about what good leadership looks like, what it means to speak up, and just how important the voices of American youth are in creating change.

Finally, students ended the evening by debriefing about their experiences on the tour. And, before anyone else asks, yes, we do need to go home tomorrow. However, we will go home tomorrow as different people– people with new friends, people with new perspectives on life, people with renewed senses of purpose, and, people who appreciate and truly understand the importance of giving back and being a citizen of a country with so many opportunities and so much potential.

While tomorrow will mark the end of Citizenship Tour 2018, it will also mark the beginning of the changes that our Citizenship Tour students will bring their families, their communities, and their country.

Activism in D.C.

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Today was another jam packed day of the 2018 Citizenship Tour!

We began the day with a meeting at the National Student Legal Defense Network, a non-profit organization that works to advance students’ rights to educational opportunities and ensure that higher education provides a launching point for economic mobility. Students had the chance to hear from Alex Elson, Martha Fulford, and other members of their team on their career paths and the advocacy that the organization engages in.

Then, students met with Maurice Jackson, a Professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. Professor Jackson spoke about his experiences navigating the higher education world and had a meaningful question and answer session with students that touched on topics such as racism, the impact of music, and what it is like to teach college students.

Then, students met with Judge Tanya S. Chutkan at the District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Chutkan discussed her career path from dance, to law school, to becoming a judge. She talked about what it means to take the bench and the ways that her career has impacted her life. She ended the Q&A with students by inviting students to sit in her judge’s chair a take a picture beneath the District of Columbia seal!

Finally, students ended the day with a fun hit around at George Washington University, followed by some pizza.

We look forward to what our last full day of the 2018 Citizenship Tour has in store!

Day Five: Discovering Myself in Washington D.C.

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Yesterday we heard from one of our Tour Counselors. Today we hear from one of our Citizenship Tour students, Kiara, as she reflects on the events of the day and the impact that the Citizenship Tour has had on her so far:

Today my Citizenship tour crew and I toured Washington D.C. For me, it is my first time here. I have never visited any state further South than Pennsylvania. I enjoyed seeing all of the monuments, beautiful buildings, and the celebrations of the LGBTQ community all over the place. We also visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This particularly is my favorite highlight of the tour so far, because I found a little bit of myself today.

Being from Cape Verde and not knowing a lot about my own history, coming to this museum gave me more insight on it. Before I came to the United States at the age of 6, I did not know what “Black” was or which people were considered “African Americans”. Ever since, I have learned. Visiting this museum and seeing what my people (Who I did not even know were my people) went through to achieve everything they have today was inspiring. As an African from Cape Verde, I know about the history of slavery, but I was not as affected by it as the African Americans living in the United States because I did not have to experience many of the consequences of American slavery.

I have a sense of African pride that some might not have because they do not know much of their history and I realize this privilege I have. Even though I have been learning this history in schools for a decade, today I felt it harder than ever. I felt a connection like never before. I felt proud to be a part of the Black community like never before. Visiting this museum has left me even more inspired to continue the legacy of my ancestors. The museum is a beautiful place that makes the pain of slavery come to life, but also shows the beauty in the struggle. Through the struggle of enslavement to becoming free, the beauty of our culture was revealed through music and dance (One of the ways I connected because of the popularity of music and dance in Cape Verde) and so much more.

Experiencing this with my friends was also really amazing to me. I could not have gone through this painful but inspiring experience without their support. This tour has been really essential for me because it has given me the opportunity to connect to other young people who share my interest in changing the world. They are truly so bright and motivated. Sharing this experience with these individuals has been one of the best things I have done in my life.

To all my brothers and sisters, continue to discover yourselves too,


Urban Squash Feels the Brotherly Love

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Hi, Citizenship Tour admirers! Special guest writer, Tour Counselor Amy, here. Excited to share with everyone that we have arrived to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia!

Our first stop was Downtown Philly where we did a walking tour with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts program featuring our incredible tour guide Brendan.  We were able to learn about different topics surrounding the history and community of this city. Topics targeted issues surrounding homelessness, LGBTQ activism, preservation of arts and music, and women’s rights through the use of mural paintings. It was incredible to just watch students asking questions about the smallest details in each mural and just learning about the city through the lens of art. We re-charged by visiting the Reading Market and fueling our bodies with only the best remedy for sore feet– ice cream.

While today was mostly a day of of travel and exploration, we made our way to dinner at one of our Native SquashSmarts student’s recommendations, Hibachi Buffet. Thanks Josh, we couldn’t have asked for a more authentic tour guide. As we settled in for the night, we found an opportunity to do our mid-trip reflection outside the SquashSmarts gates (We weren’t locked out or anything like that). This moment for me was what really made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be a part of this trip. Within just 3 days of knowing each other, students were already reflecting on the relationships they had built with one another. They shared not only their reactions on the locations and people we had already met but on the deep bonds they had started to find with each other. Whether it was deep conversations or simple acts of sharing a meal together, it is clear to see that we have definitely started to become one urban squash family. I am so excited to see how much more students will grow, learn, and relate to each other by the end of this trip.

With all the sisterly love,


This Just In: CT ’18 Takes NBC By Storm


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Today was day three of the Citizenship Tour and the students started their day with a surprise selfie with Hoda Kotb, Jenna Bush Hager, Willie Geist, and Al Roker! Students then had a Q&A with Al on the set of the Today Show while One Republic played in the background (Not a bad way to start the morning)! We then had a behind the scenes tour of the NBC studios and saw where all of the TV magic happens.

Students then had a chance to explore the Museum of Modern Art. The students appreciated works of art by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Frieda Kahlo. In particular, the students enjoyed a special exhibition by Adrian Piper.

After the MoMA, students met with Katie Kingsbury, Rachel Abrams, Tiffany Hsu, Astead Herndon, and Vivan Yee from The New York Times. Students learned about what it means to be a journalist as well as the ways that journalism can impact social issues.

We then took a tour of the 9/11 Memorial and students reflected on this tragic event, which has shaped the landscape of our nation.

We will miss New York when we leave, but we are excited for the next stop of our trip: Philly!

Day Two of the Tour: Activism in NYC!

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Today we had the chance to meet with some of New York’s important public servants and activists! We met with Jarret Hova, Director of Policy and Council in the office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York, Letitia James, Nisha Agarwal, Senior Advisor to Deputy Mayor Thompson, and Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy.

Students participated in engaging question and answer sessions, had the chance to explore some of New York’s public offices, and took a boat tour to the Statue of Liberty. We finished the day by attending a reception thanking our SEA and Citizenship Tour supporters– we even had the chance to see Ramy Ashour and Todd Harrity hit some great points!

Tour 2018 hits the ground running in NYC

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Today was the first day of our 2018 Citizenship Tour! These 18 engaged, enthusiastic, and thoughtful students arrived in New York City ready to learn more about activism, advocacy, and what it means to speak up and out as a young person living in America.

After lunch, we got to know each other with team-building activities in Central Park. We then headed to StreetSquash for a fun hit-around, followed by a meeting with Tim Wyant, the Executive Director of SEA. We are excited to continue to learn more about each other and ways to be actively engaged citizens!


Meet the Students on the 2018 Citizenship Tour !

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On July 11, 18 urban squash high school students from 12 different member programs will gather in New York City to kick off the Fifth Annual Urban Squash Citizenship Tour. These civically-minded students will embark on an 8-day trip from New York City to Washington DC with a stop in Philadelphia. Along the way, the group will meet with leaders in government, public service, education, and journalism, and of course, save time for squash!

See below to “meet” some of our 2018 Tour students! To see our itinerary and learn more about the Citizenship Tour, be sure to visit our Tour webpage.

Kiara Batista

Kiara B..jpgKiara Batista was born in Cape Verde and moved to the United States at the age of 6. She recently graduated from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science and will be attending UMass Amherst as a college freshmen in the fall! She is 17 years old, almost 18. She has been a part of SquashBusters ever since her freshmen year of high school in 2014. She loves playing squash, soccer and debating.

Her dream is to become a human rights or immigration lawyer in the future. She dreams of helping out the people in her community as a lawyer. She loves learning about current issues, government and history. It is her favorite subject in school along with calculus!


Sidzel Ramirez


Sidzel Ramirez is a rising senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley.  She is the middle child of two sisters and lives in Richmond, California.  Sidzel joined SquashDrive when she was in the fifth grade and will be part of the first graduating class from the program.

During her time with SquashDrive, she has played local and national tournaments including the Howe Cup in Philadelphia.  Sidzel attended Exeter Summer and is thrilled to be participating on the Citizenship Tour.

Currently, Sidzel is working diligently to begin the college search and application process.  She loves any courses that involve math and science. Sidzel will be a first generation college student and hopes to study criminal justice.  

Sidzel is most passionate about immigration and rights and is excited to learn about legislation and current topics regarding this issue.  She loves living in the Bay Area, and spends time with her family and friends and loves to dance!

Joshua E. Morales-Zayas

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 6.45.39 AMJosh Morales-Zayas is a rising college freshman attending Fairleigh Dickinson University in the Fall. He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico but moved to North Philadelphia at the age of 3, with his mom and brother. Josh first joined SquashSmarts in the sixth grade and has been part of the program ever since. SquashSmarts has helped him develop into the student-athlete he wanted to be, through many opportunities such as elite squash camps and intense academic courses year round. Josh loves sports as a whole, and he plays a little bit of everything. Baseball is the only sport that competes with squash in his heart. Josh likes “chilling” with my friends and family, he am rarely ever inside my house. As a college freshman, Josh wants to major in either economics or business as he looks forward to having a career in Commercial Real Estate. Lastly, Josh and his parents always enjoy long talks about the world that surrounds us, and how it may change; because of that he is looking forward to conversations about current events that occur especially in today’s corporate America.

Richard Montalvo
Access Youth Academy 

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Richard Montalvo is 16 years of age and is a fellow member of Access Youth Academy – based in San Diego and affiliated with the Preuss School UCSD.

Richard has been a part of Access Youth Academy for the past four years and has had an impact on those around him on and off the court. On court, you can feel his competitiveness to do better no matter the outcome of the match. While off the court, Richard is a very passionate person who will always be open to help others succeed.  

Although Richard aspires to become a future engineer, he also keeps an eye on political related matters and thus believes that with the Citizenship Tour it will help him gain more background on politics.  


Shaheed Muhammad 
Squash Haven

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Shaheed Muhammad is a rising junior at Metropolitan Business Academy. Shaheed has been on the honor roll his entire sophomore year and plans on continuing his streak in the coming years. Outside of school, Shaheed enjoys exercising, painting/drawing, and listening to his favorite songs. He likes to express his creativity through journal writing and filling his bedroom walls with photos and drawings. Shaheed has been participating in Squash Haven for five ongoing years now and his favorite part is group book discussions; some of his favorite new books are “Of Mice and Men” and “The Color of Water.” Playing squash has also become a lot of fun for him, playing matches with his peers and coaches is always a good time.

Shaheed is looking forward to going to the citizenship tour because of the inspiring successful people he will be meeting. This is going to be a very informative journey and he’s hoping this trip will give him a better idea of what sort of career path he will wanna study throughout college.


Rahel Chewaka
Access Youth Academy

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Rahel was born in a beautiful part of Ethiopia in Africa called Yirga Chefe. After 5 years of living there with her family, she moved to San Diego, California with her parents and two brothers. She and her family had come  to America with dreams of a higher education and a happy life. Her parents put her in school and worked hard labor jobs to provide for her family. Following in her older brothers footsteps she attended The Preuss School UCSD. In 7th grade she joined Access Youth Academy. She grew a love for squash and AYA and became fully committed to it. Apart from Access Youth Academy, She is in the Fashion Club and also the President of her class. When she graduates in 2020 she hopes to attend a notable university to pursue a career in law and play for the squash team. She strives for a life with financial stability for herself, her family, and the disadvantaged, whilst making critical political and social changes in the world such as racial and gender inequality.


Itzell Cervantes
Squash Haven

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Itzell Cervantes is a rising senior at Wilbur Cross High School. She was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. She joined Squash Haven her freshmen year in high school with her two sisters who were already on the team. She is an active participant on court  and in the classroom she has always been able to make a strong presence in the room. Eager and dedicated to learn, she is able to gain experiences offered at Squash Haven. In addition to Squash Haven she enjoys immersing her self into different languages and working with children. The opportunity to be on the Citizenship Tour will explore her interest in social awareness.


Leslie Flores

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Leslie Flores is a rising Senior at North High School. She was born and raised in Denver, Colorado with her younger sister and older brother. Leslie has lived in Northside Denver since she was a little girl. She is really passionate about her community and her native roots.

Leslie has been a part of Impact360 since she was in 6th grade and plans on continuing her involvement with Impact360 in the future. Leslie loves to hike, travel, learn about other people’s cultures, and try new things. She is a caring, organized, and an open minded person.

When she graduates she plans to go to a four year college in Colorado or the East Coast. She wants to study International Studies with a focus on Human Rights through which she hopes to gain knowledge and information to fulfill her passion of helping people in communities around the country and the world.


Piera Miller

Piera Miller is a rising senior who looks forward to learning more about how people are working to improve our society today. She is a member of SquashDrive and was recruited by Coach Lauren Patrizio in the 5th grade. Since then she hasn’t stopped playing squash. She has a younger brother who also plays squash and an older sister who is a great supporter. Piera strives to do well for her family and wants to give back to her parents and family members who have helped her throughout her life.

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She is a dancer, singer, songwriter and a leader throughout her school. She works as a student ambassador and has been a part of her student leadership class since the sophomore year. She hopes to make a difference in the world through her sports and her musical capabilities. Piera has worked hard to be a great student, listener, learner, squash player, dancer, singer, and leader. She is eager to learn and excited to ask questions on what it truly looks like to fight for what you believe in.


Lynette Guerrero
SquashBuster Lawerence

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 2.32.54 PM.pngLynette Guerrero is a rising senior at Lawrence High School. She joined SquashBusters in the 6th grade when it first started in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Being one out of twelve siblings it was important that she found something that could be her own. Aside from squash, Lynette has played for her school’s field hockey team since her freshman year. After being part of her school’s National Honor Society for one year, she was recently selected to be part of their student governing board. After high school, she plans to be the first in her family to attend a four year college and be a second generation college graduate.


Jerrica Manigault 
Kids on Point

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Jerrica Manigault is a rising Junior at Allegro Charter School of Music. Jerrica was born in Claxton, Georgia. Jerrica has lived in Charleston, South Carolina for 14 years. Jerrica has one sibling, a 18 year old brother. Jerrica plays competitive squash and does community service work, as part of the Kids on Point team at the College of Charleston. She has been a part of Kids on Point for 6 years, first joining the program when she was in 5th grade. Other than squash, Jerrica enjoys to draw and she hopes to become an artist when she grows up.

Before joining Kids on Point in 5th grade, Jerrica did not have anything productive to do after school. She would usually watch hours of tv. Academically, she was not reaching her full potential. Through her commitment to Kids on Point her grades improved dramatically. Jerrica was shy when she was younger, but over time- through meeting a diverse array of people- she broke out of her shell. Kids on Point have opened many doors and opportunities for Jerrica. For example, she has been able to travel to many places such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Charlotte, Washington DC, and New York. She can see herself being a positive role model to the younger students at Kids on Point. 


Jaz’mene Little 
Racquet Up Detroit

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Jaz Little is a seventeen year old student from Detroit, Michigan. She is a rising senior at one of the top three high schools in Detroit, Cass Technical High school. She takes her academics very seriously and her current cumulative overall GPA is a 3.85. Aside from her academics she is a very outgoing, determined, and sweet person. Failing isn’t a option for her; she has to give her all into everything she does. She loves her friends and family and will do anything for them, especially when it comes to her mom and younger brother. Jaz has been a active participant in Racquet Up since 2013 when she was recruited in the sixth grade. She describes it as being the best blessing that has ever happened in her life. Racquet Up has provided her endless opportunities and new experiences that she appreciates and loves. She’s been to places that she’d never thought of going, and is exposed to more positive environments.  


Seth Canales

Seth Madison Canales is 15 years old and has been apart of CitySquash for 6 years. He has 7 siblings, a mix of step and half sibilings. He was raised by his mother and stepfather who he considers a father. He is a rising junior at Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 2.50.27 PM.png Seth joined CitySquash in the 6th grade. Ever since he has loved the game and has learned so much. CitySquash has taught him many core values that have helped him in his past and will help him in the future. CitySquash has also helped him find what he wants to do in the future. Since he is always meeting new people and talking he found out he loves talking and interacting and so he wants to become a real estate agent. He hopes to go to college to study marketing, business, and Econ at either FSU, St. Lawrence, Alabama University, Fordham University, Trinity, or Siena.


Deon Rosado

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Deon Rosado is a rising junior at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, MD. Being the youngest of three siblings along with having an identical twin, he has his own identity. Last summer, he had the opportunity to be a part of University of Baltimore’s Philosophy Camp where he expressed his love for learning how things can affect other people and the ways he can help better the world. He believes that individuals should open up their minds to new perspectives of life. He always had the love for equine studies, architecture and fashion. With his determination, compassion and all around free spirit, Deon has dreams of double majoring in those fields of study to build a brand that is beyond his name.


Gilberto Viveros Flores 
Beyond Walls

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Gilberto Viveros Flores born in Puebla, Mexico but raised in St. Paul, Minnesota is 17 years old and an upcoming senior.  Gilberto has been playing squash with Beyond Walls for 5 years now, he enjoys playing squash and traveling to play in tournaments. Gilberto is a pacifist and wants to see world peace. He likes to study and loves all animals making him want to become a veterinarian in the future. Gilberto likes to meet new people, travel, go to the theaters, anything about superheroes, play soccer with friends, go for a walk, and play video games.


Xitlali Zuniga-Romero

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Xitlali Zuniga-Romero is a rising senior at Westover School. She was raised in the Bronx, New York with her mother and two younger brothers. First joining the program in the 3rd grade, She has been a part of CitySquash for 8 years

She enjoys listening to music, lacrosse, swimming, and writing poetry. Because of  Citysquash, Xitlali is able to aspire to many dreams and search for what’s best for her. She loves science and hopefully can become a trauma surgeon in the future.