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!”

 

Monday, July 15 – The DC Tour Continues

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Hello!

My name is Elizangi Araujo and I am one of the many bright and amazing students who participated in the Citizenship Tour of 2019! I, along with 17 other students from 10 different programs, got the chance to meet with so many people during this special week. In New York, we had the opportunity to get a tour at NBC Studios with Brett Holey, and when we got to D.C, we had the honor to meet the Mayorkas family at their home. However, I’m here to talk about what happened on our busy Monday.

Upon having to wake up way earlier than we usually did when we were in New York, one of our first meetings was with Danielle Conley, a partner at WilmerHale firm company. As a young minority woman, I find myself attaching to other minority women. The reason seems to be because a lot of their values align with mine. Danielle, along with giving some of our kids advice about paths to pursue if they were interested in law, talked to us about how she got started in her career. She told us that we don’t necessarily have to be in law or the justice system to talk about what you are passionate about or to do what’s right. Right after our meeting with Danielle, we met with Lori Handrahan, who is a humanitarian worker. She talked about how she views a lot of men in power and how the child trafficking issue is a huge issue that is under represented. In the afternoon, we met with Justin Muzinich who is the current Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury (so you know, no big deal or anything). We ended the night with some squash and pizza at George Washington University courts with Anderson, the GW squash coach, who was generous enough to welcome our whole team. 

Citizenship Tour has given a ton of kids from a ton of cities so many opportunities to be the amazing people we all are. When I first heard that I was accepted for the Citizenship Tour, I was ecstatic and a little nervous as I realized I was going to be meeting with a whole bunch of important people. But after the first couple of meetings, I realized that mostly everyone had a similar story and wherever they are now is because of all the hard work they’ve done in their life. Hearing all the questions my peers had to ask proved to me that teenagers are the new generation and we are the ones that hold a lot of power. A lot of people disrespect teenagers or give us a bad reputation because of our age or our habits. They think we don’t have a brain on our own or we aren’t aware of the issues around us. I always knew there were teens who were just like me, who cared about their community and political issues and I was able to see that with the other 17 teenagers who I am so grateful to be on this journey with. I’m excited for the next group of teens who get accepted to Citizenship Tour next year, and to all the teens, staff and guest speakers I met this year, I just want to give the biggest thank you ever. This is truly a moment of my life I will never ever forget.

 

Sunday, July 14 – Museums and New Friends

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Student Takeover! See what Keon Rosado, SquashWise Class of 2020, has to say about our morning:

“Today our group went on an adventure to the National Museum of African American history and culture. Prior to the Citizenship Tour, I attended the museum about 3 times. However, every time I attend, I’m blown away. Every time I go, I see an exhibit I haven’t seen before. I learn new hardships pertaining to what Black people had and currently still endure within the society of America.

After visiting the museum, we were given the chance to first take a marvelous group photo in front of the museum. Looking upon the exterior of the museum, it resembled a crown. To me, the resemblance of the crown symbolizes the pulse of what it means to be Black in America. After taking the group photo, we had the opportunity to split up in groups to tour various Smithsonian Museum.”

After a quick prep meeting and a break back at the hotel, we were lucky enough to be invited to the home of former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro and Tanya Mayorkas. We enjoyed delicious food and Georgetown Cupcakes, in addition to some amazing stories and conversation with both Alejandro and Tanya. We were truly blown away by their generosity.

Daniel Islam, SquashSmarts class of 2020, shared the following: “Going to the Mayorkas’s was like being right at home. They were welcoming, there was no pressure, and they made a comfortable atmosphere for us to ask questions.”

Lexa Lara, Access Youth Academy class of 2021, shared, “I really like them as people; they were so nice and inviting. They’re just good people and I felt so comfortable in their place.”

Tour Counselor and CitySquash Alum Stacy Maceda added, “Mr. Mayorkas is a really good story teller” and everybody chimed in to agree.

We ended the day filled with energy and gratitude for their kindness.

Saturday, July 13 – SEA Heads to DC

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Today was mostly a day of travel, as we embarked on our trip to Washington, D.C.! We ate lunch on the road and arrived to our hotel around 4:30. Once we were settled, we went on a walking tour of the National Mall monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool. We enjoyed our student meeting at the Lincoln Memorial where we had an opportunity to reflect on the day and the trip so far. Please enjoy the reflections from two of our students who volunteered to share below:

Jocelyn, Squash Haven class of 2019: “The first meeting that comes to mind [as one that stands out the most] was the one where we we met Audrey Strauss and Tom McKay. I’m very interested and passionate about law and being able to meet them and learn about their accomplishments gave me insight into who I can become and what I can do.”

“This trip has encouraged me to be enlightened and empowered. Meeting people with successful careers, hearing about their accomplishments, and getting them to ask thoughtful questions has let me see that change is tangible.”

“The people around me are curious, intellectual and full of inner potential whether they realize it or not. They are a passionate group which encompasses different leaders who lead in their own way.”

Elizangi, SquashBusters class of 2020, shares the following about the trip so far: “The NBC tour was so cool. I never really thought about the film/TV industry in that manner, but after that tour, it seems like something that would be up my alley.”

“Today I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. We’ve been meeting with very important people and I thought that I would feel nervous around them, but hearing some of their stories made me remember that they had to get a start somewhere. They were/are normal people just like us”

“[I am surrounded by] a bunch of teens who’ve realized they have a voice and through this, we’re able to use it and tell people who are in power what we think needs to be done/get done and get them to understand that we are important too and our opinions matter.”

Be sure to check out SEA’s Instagram @squashandeducation to see our video reflections as well!

Friday, July 12 – CT ‘19 Takes on Journalism

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Today was day three of the tour, which began with a tour of NBC studios by Director and generous SEA supporter Brett Holey. Holey took us on a very special VIP version of the tour which excited both our students and our pages. Destiny, SquashBusters class of 2020, especially enjoyed the peek Mr. Holey gave us into the control rooms – “we never get to see the other side of the entertainment industry.” We were lucky enough to end with a bonus meeting with Lester Holt, who shared stories with us about how he got started as a reporter. He had very valuable advice for our students about maintaining intelligent debate and breaking into the news industry.

After splitting up into our small groups for lunch, we were lucky enough to tour the New York Times and engage with an all-star panel of journalists: Kathleen Kingsbury, Meeta Agrawal, Brent Staples, and Gina, a new journalist, who works in editorial for the Opinions section. The journalists spoke to us about how they remain fair, while still maintaining their humanity. Ms. Kingsbury shared, “Every journalist brings their own human emotions to [their work.]” Mr. Staples shared his experiences working as one of very few Black men in editorial work at the New York Times, stating that through his writing and editing he is “explaining the country to itself.” He also shared that “the only education is history; everything else is just training.” Finally, Ms. Agrawal shared the power an editor can have in changing the way stories are told: “My lens makes a difference. Everything you read in the paper is a choice.”

In the early evening, we toured the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Elizangi, SquashBusters class of 2020, shared the following: “The museum allowed us to experience 9/11 in a different way. I’ve only heard about it through my family and in school, but seeing the artifacts and listening to the voices of the people of their last call was overwhelming. But it’s such an important moment in a history and it’s a good thing that we’re able to see it.” 

We ended the day with a group dinner and some student exploration of NYC before meeting back at the hotel to prep for our DC trip. 

Thursday, July 11 – Day Two of the Tour: Engaged Citizenship in NYC

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Today we had the chance to meet with some of New York City’s influential public servants and activists while exploring their workplaces! We met with U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer and briefly toured the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse. Mauricio, StreetSquash Harlem class of 2019, highlighted this as his favorite meeting: he loved learning about why Judge Engelmayer enjoyed his career and appreciated that he had so much positivity around his work after so much time in it. Then, we had a lunch meeting with Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McKay at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Students loved hearing about both of their experiences with prosecution and with both their setbacks and wins in their attempts to fight for a more just legal system.

After lunch, we met with former United States Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell. Idalis, MetroSquash class of 2021, and Naima, SquashDrive class of 2020, very much enjoyed hearing Ms. Powell explain how she works to empower women in her daily life at work. Naima shared that Ms. Powell “wants women to be in the same leadership roles as men. Her goal is to make sure women overcome their challenges and reach powerful positions.”

After that, we had the opportunity to meet with Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News. Last but most certainly not least, we met with Nisha Agarwal, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, who spoke to our students about her role and her mission as an activist. Students were incredibly inspired by her story, citing her strengths as a person and as a politician. 

We ate dinner as a group, then went on a guided night tour of the South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. We ended the night with our student prep meeting about tomorrow’s itinerary. Today was definitely busy and filled with learning from exciting people!

Wednesday, July 10 – Tour 2019 Begins in NYC

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Today was the first day of our 2019 Citizenship Tour! 18 thoughtful and excited students from 10 cities across the country arrived to New York City by plane, train, and bus. This year’s group includes a mix of rising high school juniors through rising college first years, who will be accompanied by four amazing SEA alum acting as our tour counselors. 

We began the tour with a welcome lunch where we talked about activism and what it means to be an engaged citizen in the U.S. today. After breaking the ice, a few students jumped right into their presentations that they’ve been working on to prepare for the tour, providing us with all the background information we need on our first Tour Speakers – CitySquash Executive Director Terence Li, StreetSquash Executive Director George Polsky, and SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant.

Abou, Squash Haven class of 2021, shared that he enjoyed the panel with George, Terence, and Tim, because “we always hear about them, but we never get to talk to them. I appreciated that they took the time to talk to us.” Alex, CitySquash class of 2020, appreciated Tim’s candid explanation of why the network changed the acronym from NUSEA to SEA. Daniel, SquashSmarts class of 2020, shared that he “enjoyed hearing about their challenges,” and learned that “it’s okay to not know where your college or career path is going to take you right away, because eventually you’ll figure it out.”

Finally Destiny, SquashBusters class of 2020, had the following to share: “Today was a day full of new faces and good laughs. We had the opportunity to meet those who started it all and learned about the motivation that led to our squash programs’ development.”

After our meeting and squash session at StreetSquash Harlem, we enjoyed dinner together, prepped for our busy day tomorrow, and headed back to our hotel. We’re excited to embark on the rest of the tour with these students and counselors, learning what it means to make a difference!

2019 Citizenship Tour: Meet our students!

From July 10-17, 18 high school students selected from SEA’s national network of students will spend eight days in New York City and Washington, D.C. meeting with leaders in government, journalism, education, policy, and the nonprofit sector, visiting museums and national landmarks, and playing squash as a part of the 6th annual Citizenship Tour. This year’s participants hail from 10 cities. “Meet” our amazing students below!

Maria Aguirre
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

mariaMaria was born in San Diego but her family roots are from Mexico. Her mother is from a small fishing village in Guerrero and her father is from Acaupoloco. Maria has been making her family proud with her diligent work habits, achieving a 4.125 GPA and setting an excellent example for her two younger sisters.  Maria joined Access Youth Academy in the 7th grade, and has utilized its resources to the fullest extent. Academically, she has improved tremendously over the years and is a very committed student. Outside of Access, Maria is in the Spanish National Honor Society, Model United Nations, and works in the media group of Robotics Club. While Maria is still figuring out where she wants to attend college and what she wants to study, her interests span from humanities to the sciences. When she’s not busy studying, Maria delves into her true passion, the world of music. Not only does she listen to all types of music, she also makes her own – writing lyrics and creating beats. 

Mauricio Anguiano
StreetSquash
Bronx, New York

Mauricio Anguiano HeadshotBorn and raised in the Bronx, Mauricio was no stranger to adversity as a First Generation American in a low income household. He had to work especially hard at a young age to overcome the stereotypes he was born into. His parents weren’t given the opportunity to finish high school so he acted as a role model to his two younger sisters and continues to aid them in everything he never had help with. Some would call it luck and others would call it fate, but in the 6th grade, Mauricio learned of Streetsquash through a presentation at the partner school he attended. He also learned he had been chosen to participate in a test prep program by his middle school for the SHSAT. With the help of the program, Mauricio was accepted to Brooklyn Technical High School and was able to join StreetSquash after finishing the prep program in 8th grade. It took until his junior year for Mauricio to truly fall in love with the sport, during one of the most difficult times of high school. He hopes to pursue a career in physics and to keep himself engaged and involved with the politics of his community and the country as a whole.

Sebastian Arango
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Sebastian Headshot--Squash HavenMy name is Sebastian Arango Chiquillo, and I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. I then spent 3 years living in Venezuela, after which I came back to Colombia at the age of 10. After 10 years of living in Colombia with my family, I moved to New Haven Connecticut with my mom and my sister. My family and I came to the United States in hopes of getting a better education and a happier life. Creating a path for my younger siblings, I went to Truman School and John C Daniels Schools. In the 4th grade I joined Squash Haven. I immediately loved the sport and became fully committed to it. In addition to being a member of Squash Haven, I also play club soccer and participate in a weather balloon launch in high school. When I graduate from Connecticut College in 2023, I hope to be in a financially stable situation and continue to play squash and soccer with my friends. I also hope to continue serving my community and ensuring that other families have the opportunity to succeed. 

Elizangi Araujo
SquashBusters Boston
Boston, MA

Elizangi Araujo Headshot--SqBElizangi Araujo is a 17-year-old rising senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Massachusetts. She has been a part of SquashBusters since the 7th grade. Along with reading, Eli loves to watch movies. Eli has always wanted to make a difference in her community and she knows that the Citizenship Tour will give her the tools to do so.

 

 

 

Israel Booker
MetroSquash
Chicago, IL

Isreal Booker Headshot--MetrosquashIsrael was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois and went to 3 different elementary schools called Kozminski Academy (6years), Ashburn Academy (1 year), and St.Sabina Academy (3 years), and attends Gary Comer College Prep for high school. She started at MetroSquash in the 5th grade and took a break from 6th through 8th grade to pursue other interests. When she started her freshman year of high school, she returned to MetroSquash with zest for squash and a sense of agency over her academics. During these past few years of being engaged at MetroSquash, Israel has grown and made an impact by receiving the Student of the Month award and being part of the yearbook club. In 2020, she hopes to attend Xavier University in Louisiana where she will study pharmacology. Israel aspires to open her own pharmacy because she wants to be her own boss and offer a unique approach with her business. Israel believes that being a pharmacist is one of the most important jobs because medication helps people heal and overcome their illnesses.

Naima Burton
SquashDrive
Oakland, CA

Headshot Naima-SquashDriveNaima was born in Berkeley, California, but her family originated from El Dorado, Arkansas. Naima’s family wanted access to better education and  job opportunities, so they decided to come to California to accomplish these dreams. Naima grew up in a single household most of her life until she got older and started seeing her dad more often. Naima later adapted to living in a household with her stepmom, brothers, and sisters. No one on either side of Naima’s family has attended four-year college. When Naima graduates in 2020, she wants to become the first to break the cycle, by attending and graduating from a four-year college and majoring in criminal justice. Naima attends school at Envision Academy of Arts and Technology in Oakland, which prepares and focuses on ensuring all students go to college. Naima discovered SquashDrive through a friend and fell in love with the sport of squash and how all the players interacted with each other. Naima enjoys how SquashDrive’s staff contribute to and care not only about the sport, but each student’s education as well. Naima is interested law, criminal justice, and spends her free time training with her track team.

Angel Esquivel
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

pasted image 0Angel is a native San Diegan, being raised by his mother who came to America from Guerroro, Mexico. Angel might be the youngest member in his family, but he is setting the bar high with his 4.0 GPA and excelling athletic abilities. He joined Access Youth Academy in the 8th grade, and has been prevailing both in the classroom and the squash court ever since. When he graduates from the Preuss School UCSD in 2021, he hopes to attend UCSD and get a degree in law. His goal is to become an immigration lawyer because he wants to give back to his family and his community who have been impacted by the current immigration system. He aspires to make the immigration process more smooth and humane. Angel is also passionate about finding a solution to homelessness, as it is a widespread social problem in the city of San Diego. Outside of Access, Angel is a star soccer player and an avid movie buff. 

Jocelyn Feliciano
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Jocelyn Feliciano's Headshot--Squash HavenJocelyn Feliciano was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. While growing up in New Haven, Jocelyn was introduced to multiple youth-related programs including TAG (Talented and Gifted), U.S. Grant, and her most impactful, Squash Haven. She began her squash journey in the 5th grade and continued her pursuit for better education at an all-girls boarding school in Simsbury, CT. At The Ethel Walker School, she led the squash team as their #1 squash player, earning “The Most Valuable Player” award for all four-years. Her love for squash and her dream for achieving a greater future is motivates her to succeed. At her school, Jocelyn was an active member in multiple affinity clubs including The Latin American Students Organization (LASO), Black Student Union (BSU) and participated in clubs such as Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K), and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Her most active role was being Head of Community Partnerships and overseeing the entire community partnership program. She recently graduated from Ethel Walker, and is looking forward to continuing her education at Dickinson College, where she plans on playing for the Varsity Squash team and majoring in Political Science and Pre-Law.

Destiny Gabriel
SquashBusters Boston
Boston, MA

Destiny Gabriel Headshot--SqBDestiny Gabriel has been a part of SquashBusters Boston since the 7th grade. She is a rising senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Destiny loves reading, music, and science. When she grows up, she wants to pursue a career in microbiology. Destiny deeply appreciates the differences of those around her and she uses empathy to fuel her dream of supporting everyone, equally, through science and healthcare.

 

Leslie Gonzalez
StreetSquash
New York, NY

DSC_0184Leslie was born in the center of the hardworking city, Manhattan, New York. She was raised uptown in Washington Heights with her older brother and sister. Her mother enrolled Leslie and her siblings in Catholic school for elementary and middle school. In 8th grade, Leslie joined StreetSquash Harlem and grew a love for the sport and her community at the program. Despite her siblings attending Catholic high schools, Leslie attended one of the top public schools in NYC, Millennium High School. During her time there, Leslie joined the Girls Who Code and Hispanic Media clubs. Throughout high school, Leslie discovered her passion to advocate for social justice. This fall, Leslie will attend Connecticut College, where she intends to major in Government and play for the women’s squash team. With an immense amount of support and resources, Leslie is dedicated to building a life for both herself and her mother, who sacrificed much for her children and never got the chance to take advantage of the same opportunities. 

Daniel Islam
SquashSmarts
Philadelphia, PA

HeadshotMy name is Daniel Islam and I am seventeen years old. I am an eleventh grader currently attending Science Leadership Academy at Beeber in Philadelphia. I used to live in a South Amercan country called Guyana where I grew up playing squash. Earlier this year, I moved to Philadelphia to finish my eleventh and twelfth grade years in school. I have been playing squash for about five years now and I loved the game ever since I started to play it. I won several tournaments in Guyana, and once in Philadelphia, I joined SquashSmarts through the recommendation of my school. In school, survey of law was one of my most interesting courses. In my old school before I came to Philadelphia I got a three term honor roll. In the future, I want to pursue business and entrepreneurship options. I am looking forward to the Citizenship Tour and the opportunity to meet with changemakers in the United States. 

Aboubacar Kourouma
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Abou Headshot--Squash Haven

I was born in a small town in the capital of Guinea called Hamdallaye. After 3 years of living there with my family, my father moved to America because of his job as an Accountant for a corporation based in Guinea. When my father visited America, he realized how different the way of life is here and how many opportunities there were waiting to be grasped. After almost a year of him stationing in America, the corporation he worked for in Guinea had shut down due to governmental issues, so he chose to bring the rest of us to America. He knew that America could offer us higher education and overall a safe community for us to strive in. When we arrived in America, my father put me and my siblings into public school, while he attended college for a better degree and my mom worked as an engineer for Medtronic. Following in my older siblings footsteps, I attended East Rock Community Magnet School located in New Haven, Connecticut. In 5th grade, rather than playing soccer like all of my other siblings, I decided I wanted to try something new. This when I decided to join Squash Haven and play squash, a sport that I never knew existed. Shortly after, I fell in love with the program and the sport. Squash Haven united me with old friends and allowed me to discover places and things that I would have never discovered on my own before. When I graduate high school in 2021, I hope to attend a notable college to pursue a degree in software engineering. I strive for a good life. A life where I can support myself and my family. A life where I can travel around the world and see things I’ve never seen before. A life in debt of gratitude for Squash Haven.

Lexa Lara
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

pasted image 0 (1)Lexa was born in Oceanside, California to two loving parents who immigrated to America from Mexico. Her father from San Luis Potosi, and her mother from Guadalajara, moved to America for more opportunities. Their goal for a prosperous future for their children is happening before their eyes as Lexa attends the Preuss School UCSD, has a 4.25 GPA, and is on the path to attending a great college. Lexa will be the first in her family to attend college, setting a solid path for her younger brother to follow. Lexa hopes to attend UC Berkeley when she graduates from high school in 2021, and is interested in studying neuroscience or forensics. She has remained committed to Access Youth Academy for the last five years, joining in 7th grade. Outside of school, Lexa is passionate about social issues that impact her life directly, like immigration rights and global warming. In her free time, Lexa enjoys exploring fashion, trends and makeup.  

Alex Lorenzo
CitySquash
Bronx, NY

Alex Lorenzo PhotoAlex was born and raised in the streets of the Bronx, New York and is a rising senior at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. In December 2000 Alex’s parents arrived in Texas and managed to navigate their way to New York where they began their journey in a new world. They came risking everything, even their own lives, in order for a better lifestyle for the future of their family. Alex’s parents, not speaking any English, managed to put both Alex and his brother in school and provide a roof over their heads. His parents worked countless labor jobs in order to support them. In middle school, Alex attended M.S.45 where he was introduced to CitySquash in 6th grade. He immediately fell in love with the sport and became committed to the program. Without CitySquash he would never would have been able to achieve the goal of attending boarding school and improving his squash game. CitySquash has allowed him to accomplish the goal his parents hoped to achieve through all the countless hours they worked. In 2020 he will be the first from his family to attend college and hopes to attend a notable university, pursue his interest in astronomy, and play college squash. He strives for a life where he can be financially stable and work to help immigrants develop a foundation in the U.S. without many hardships.

Ingri Morales Sanchez
Kids on Point
Charleston, SC

Ingri Headshot -- Kids on PointOn June 3, 2003, in Shelbyville Kentucky, a baby girl named Ingri was born. After living there for 4 years she moved to North Charleston, Sc. She lived there with her hardworking mother and smart older brother. At the age of 7, she moved to downtown Charleston, SC with her mother and brother to start fresh. At the age of 8, her older brother joined a program named Chucktown squash. As she admires the interesting things and trips that her brother did with the program she knew she wanted to join when she was old enough. When she turned 10, she joined Chucktown squash with her brother. As the years passed she learned new information, met some amazing people, and even formed some bonds with the staff. As time passed she loved squash more and more. She would get her little brother to join the summer camp so that he would one day follow in her and her older brother footsteps. With the support of her squash team, she knows that she will be pushed and helped with her future major of medicine. With this, she wishes to help people and be able to make a difference. 

Fernanda Padilla
SquashDrive
Oakland, CA

Headshot Fernanda-SquashDriveFernanda was born in the great city of Mexico City, Mexico. She moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. While growing up, Fernanda became increasingly interested in immigration policy and reform. For the most part Fernanda has grown up in Berkeley, California, and lives with her parents and two brothers. Currently, Fernanda is a rising junior at Berkeley High School. Fernanda has been a part of SquashDrive since the 7th grade and has enjoyed both the squash and academic aspects of the program. She loves the community that she has built with her teammates at SquashDrive. Fernanda is also a member of a program called Youth and Government, where she builds leadership skills and works with other youth delegations in California. Overall, Fernanda loves learning and talking about different world issues. 

Keon Rosado
SquashWise
Baltimore, MD

pasted image 0 (2)Keon Rosado is a rising senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, MD. He is an identical twin and has an older sister. Last summer, he was given the opportunity to take part in the Overland Summers’ program: New England Hiking and Service where he had the privilege of giving food to families in need, mentoring third and fourth graders, and volunteering at a local food pantry followed by him hiking and helping to maintain certain trails associated with the Appalachian Trail. Keon believes in being a service to the communities around him. He aspires to become an automotive engineer to which he hopes to earn  a lot of money to start a non-profit which gives back to those in need. Keon plans to double major in engineering and social work. The drive, ambition, and selflessness that Keon possess will assist him in transcending to major heights of success. Some of the hobbies that interests Keon is studying different types of cars and studying various policies in our government that impact society. 

Idalis Wilson
MetroSquash
Chicago, IL

Idalis Headshot--MetroSquashIdalis Wilson was born on the East side of Chicago but currently lives on the South Side. She is the older sister of Dylan – a caring and generous younger brother. She began her education at O’keefe Elementary School then went to Bret Harte for middle school and now is a 10th grader at South Shore International College Prep. When Idalis graduates from high school, she plans to attend college to study criminology. She hopes to pursue a career in forensic science. Idalis joined MetroSquash in the 7th grade after hearing about the program through her cousin. She begged her mom to sign her up and the rest is history in the making. She has continued with MetroSquash into high school because of the help she gets with homework and all of the different opportunities she’s been exposed to, like the SEA Citizenship Tour. And of course, because of squash! Her favorite tournament thus far was the Toronto Team Tournament. Although she didn’t win, it was a great experience leaving the country for the first time. 

 

Behind the Scenes Tour of Phillies’ Ballpark

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We said goodbye to NYC this morning and arrived to Philadelphia for Tour adventures in a new city.

Our first stop was Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Though they sadly did not have a home game for us to see, we got a VIP tour of the ballpark. Highlights included a walk on the field and dugout, an inside look of the clubhouse and the media room. We even accidentally ran into a bride and groom getting married that day at the stadium! A special thanks to SquashSmarts Board Member Tom Mashek and Executive Director Steve Gregg for coordinating the visit.

We then traveled to Chinatown for an authentic meal at Lee How Fook restaurant and explored a different part of the city. With full stomachs, our tour of Philly naturally landed us at SquashSmarts where late-night squash and a sleepover at the facility awaits us.

On to DC in the morning!