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

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.

Wednesday, July 17: The 6th Citizenship Tour Comes to an End

This morning, we ended the tour with a quick visit to the White House, where students explored the historical building. Then, we said our goodbyes and parted ways, traveling home to as close as Baltimore and as far as Berkeley, CA. It was evident from the goodbyes that students formed real friendships on this special trip. It’s difficult to summarize how much this tour has meant to each of us. For a small glimpse, we’ve included Tour Counselor Zoe Russell’s moving speech from last night’s Squash on Fire reception.

Hello everyone, and good evening! It has been an honor to act as a tour counselor this past week, and it is an honor to speak for you all this evening. 

Without a doubt, I would have loved to participate in the Citizenship Tour as a student. With a passion for creating change and an interest in law, it would have been an incomparable experience to have met even one of the amazing people that the students have had the chance to meet in the last few days, including U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer, top-tier NBC journalist Lester Holt, power couple Tanya and Alejandro Mayorkas, who founded the Fair Housing Institute of LA and was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama, respectively, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin Muzinich.  Alas, the first Citizenship Tour did not occur until 2014, a full year after I had already graduated from SquashBusters in Boston, and matriculated to Bucknell University as a Posse Scholar. And so, with an envious heart, I lived vicariously through the blog posts and personal stories of friends about this amazing program. I was not just jealous of the fact that they were meeting superstars like John Lewis or current presidential candidate Cory Booker, I lamented the opportunity to engage with those who had pursued and were excelling in the exact fields I saw my future in. Many of you are aware of the various gaps in our society: the opportunity gap, the education gap, etc. And while those gaps are far smaller than in the past, they are still very present, and pose a threat to the success of many communities. 

A little over a year ago, I took a weekend off from my job as a paralegal in Atlanta and visited my family at home in Boston. Having moved to Atlanta right after graduating college, with no family and friends, I was lonely, stressed at work, and in the middle of studying for my LSATs, the most difficult exam I had encountered thus far in my life. I deeply needed some perspective, so my mother told me a story I’d never heard before. I had known that she was the first in her family to attend college, not only completing a degree at the prestigious Wellesley College, but also completing a Master’s degree afterward. The new detail she shared with me that night, was that she’d also gotten into Trinity College on a full scholarship, but my great-grandmother, a Caribbean-born immigrant who raised my mom and her siblings, told her she shouldn’t go. “Your great-grandmother didn’t really understand how the education system worked,” my mother said, “she didn’t realize how much of a difference the scholarship made.” Had no idea that it covered important things like housing, meal plans, and travel. Had no idea that, in comparison to Wellesley, which didn’t give as much money, Trinity was the obvious choice. Neither did my mother. All they had to go off of, was that they knew how to get to Wellesley, and didn’t know how to get to Trinity, so that’s where my mother went. My mother, who has led a career dedicated to public service, is still paying off loans today because information as simple as how to differentiate loans from scholarships, and a bus route, were not available to her family at the time. One of her greatest accomplishments, she told me, was ensuring I had access to all the information I needed for success. That included finding and enrolling me in incredible programs such as SquashBusters, where I received SAT support, was taken on college tours, and given a financial aid coach. The night she shared this with me, she also made a point to tell me how extremely proud she was of all I had achieved thus far, and how happy it made her to see me living my long-time dream of applying to law school. But I knew in that moment that it was because of all she went through, and the mistakes she made, that I am able to navigate the education system so well.

Even though my mother’s college decisions happened several decades ago, many black, brown, immigrant, and low-income students across the United States are in the same position today, as they apply to college and pursue professional careers. Who do they talk to that can help them make informed life decisions when their families have never encountered them? The Citizenship Tour, with intentional opportunities to engage and network with powerful individuals at the forefront of their fields, is a program helping to address this issue, and close this opportunity gap. During one of our nightly meetings this week, students were asked how they would describe themselves and the rest of their peers on the Citizenship Tour. “Curious, intellectual, and full of potential, whether they realize it or not,” said Jocelyn, a recent graduate from Squash Haven in Connecticut who will be attending Dickinson College in the fall. “[We’re all] leaders in [our] own way.” In agreement, Jocelyn’s Squash Haven peer, Aboubacar, added: “We want to change the world, but we don’t know how.” When asked what she was passionate about, Naima, a rising senior from SquashDrive in Oakland, California responded that she wanted to help and encourage other first generation students like herself on their path to college.  From the moment you meet them, it is clear not only that our students are extraordinary, but also that they are extremely self-aware. They are well-versed in matters of equity, justice, service, and civic engagement. Their passion, leadership, and drive is unmistakable. They know they are reaching for greatness, and are searching for support on their journey, but it is a support many of their families and communities cannot provide. They know that if they can find a way to reach their goals, they will be resources, mentors, and models for the following generation. 

The Citizenship Tour was created in aid of this pursuit, and even now, hours before our 6th tour ends, we can see the difference. When asked to describe this week has meant for them, Keon, a SquashWise senior from Baltimore responded: “Eye-opening. Moving forward, […] I aspire to create non-profit programs that will make a positive impact, whether it’s creating a homeless shelter or establishing a school dedicated to helping marginalized communities of color.” Lexa, a student from Access Youth Academy based in San Diego, stated: “Since now I know the importance of being a citizen, and I am very passionate about immigration reform, one of my plans is to help [show] undocumented immigrants how much they impact our nation and how their citizenship would make the U.S. a better place.”  How incredible are those responses?! Can we get a hand for that? If you aren’t inspired by the young people in this room, I don’t know what to tell you. We are watching generational education and information gaps close right in front of us. This is the powerful, important work that the Squash and Education Alliance, with all of its partner programs, is doing for communities across the world. From Colombia to South Africa, Chicago to Charleston, we are working hard to make the future our students rightfully deserve accessible. They experienced dramatic change in one week; with the support of SEA behind them, imagine what these young people will bring to the table in five, ten, and thirty years. They’re going to change the world. And they’re starting right now.

I would like to thank all of you, personally, for your support. Whatever your role– board member, donor, volunteer, family, or friend, you are essential to this process of opening doors for the world’s future leaders. As for me, I think it’s safe to say I made the most of a bad situation. I may have missed out on the Citizenship Tour in high school, but I’m getting paid to be here now! I’d say it worked out for the best. Even as I look forward to attending Harvard Law School in the fall, this week is a reminder of how I came to be here: someone acknowledged my potential, identified my opportunity gap, and worked to bridge the divide between potential and reality.


Tuesday, July 16 – Capitol Hill and Celebrations at Squash on Fire


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Tuesday was stacked with meetings on Capitol Hill! We started things off on the House Floor with a Democratic Congressman from Connecticut, Jim Himes. Congressman Himes was charismatic and shared his thoughts on important issues like race relations as well as his perspective on the U.S. government. He noted that he likes the House of Representatives because “It’s the purest form of democracy.” Following our chat with Congressman Himes, we toured the historic Capitol Building. 

After our tour, we headed outside for a chat with fellow Connecticut leader, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. While overlooking the Capitol steps, Senator Blumenthal spoke with our group about his work on the judiciary committee, among other things. He noted one challenge of his work: “Are you going to think about what’s good locally, or what’s good for the nation?” “Hopefully the two coincide,” he stated.

Next we headed to the office of Republican South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Senator Scott drew on personal experiences when answering our students’ questions, and cautioned about the dangers of partisanship. He encouraged our students to “understand and appreciate the nuances of debate” and raised the important question, “How do we help people make better decisions about their lives?”

After exploring Capitol Hill, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for our meeting with Admiral James Stavridis and our Tour Reception at Squash on Fire. Admiral Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander Of NATO (and Navy squash player), spoke to our group about leadership. “No one of us is as smart as all of us together,” shared the Admiral. 

Along with the Admiral, nearly 100 friends and supporters of SEA came to Squash on Fire to celebrate the Tour. SEA Alumna and Citizenship Tour Counselor Zoe Russell gave some compelling remarks, we mingled with the Tour planning committee, and watched squash pros Alister Walker and Karan Malik play each other in an exhibition match. 

After a long, eventful evening, we spent time reflecting as a group and prepared for our very last day on the tour.

Tour Counselor Takeover! Please see what Stacy Maceda, CitySquash alum and recent graduate of Hobart William Smith, had to say about our Tuesday adventures and the tour in general below:

“This year I decided to return to the Citizenship Tour as a counselor. I took part in the inaugural year of the Citizenship Tour, and I have seen it continuously progress with bright students always prepared to engage in conversation with high profiled individuals. This year I was more than surprised by the intelligent group of students that took part of the tour this year. To conclude what was already an amazing week we met with individuals like Congressmen Jim Himes, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Tim Scott, and Admiral Jim Stavridis.

The students with no doubt were prepared for the day full of events and had done extensive research on these individuals who have so much power in the decisions that impact our students lives. A personal highlight was being able to enter the House Chamber where Congressman Jim Himes gave us a historical overview of a space where laws are debated and passed. To me it was significant because we were able to occupy a space that gives significance to the current polarized state of our nation.

To finish off the night, we went to the Squash on Fire courts to hold the fundraiser reception for the Citizenship Tour. To start off the night we had alumnae Zoey Russell give a speech that highlighted the importance of the tour and how she saw the students impacted by this week’s meetings with high profiled individuals. Then we had Admiral Jim Stavridis give a speech on the importance of leadership to make the changes that we want to see. As students reflected on the tour later that night at our evening meeting, we had some speak on the amazing experiences they had and the friendships they would walk away with. With tears in their eyes and final goodbyes students were left impacted with the amazing experiences they were able to have. Thank you to our amazing staff, committee members and SEA network. Without your support this week would not have been as successful as it was!”