Nonprofit gets kids hooked on squash
Stephanie Hayes (from left) Tom Ford and Christopher Jansing, all of Lake Forest. | Photo by Tricia Sweet ~ For Sun-Times Media
Squash is a game oft associated with private clubs. One rarely thinks of inner-city children playing the game.
But the mission of METROsquash — a nonprofit with organizations in a number of big cities throughout the country — is to engage Chicago Public School students in both squash and academic instruction once the school day has ended.
Dozens gathered in Lake Forest at the home of the Dunne family in Lake Forest recently to learn more about the program and its goals. Yazmynne Carter — who attends the preparatory school Choate in Wallingford, Conn. — joined the METROsquash program in Chicago in seventh grade.
“I was iffy about joining at first,” she admitted. “After I was in the program for a while, I realized I was bright, but I never took an interest in my academics until then. I also discovered I liked squash. I now know I want to play hard in squash and do great with my academics, too.”
David Kay, executive director of the Chicago branch of METROsquash, said the organization has two main goals: get the kids into a good high school and, then, into a solid college.
“We started to use squash as the hook to get this done,” he said. “The kids have educational activities they are able to access through squash.”
In addition, METROsquash provides one-on-one mentoring and weekend activities including squash competitions, community service projects and cultural trips.
METROsquash serves 140 students in grades five through 11 and will expand to serve the 12th grade in the fall. METROsquash currently uses the squash courts at the Henry Crown Field House, located at the University of Chicago, and academic space at the University Church. The organization is building the METROsquash Academic & Squash Center at the corner of 61st Street and Cottage Grove in Chicago, which will encompass 21,000 square feet and will serve more than 300 students. An $8 million campaign is in progress for that project.
Two upcoming METROsquash fundraisers are a Golf & Squash Outing Aug. 29 at the Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest and the METROsquash Ball at The Saddle and Cycle Club on Oct. 12. For more information, visit www.metrosquash.org.