January 3, 2016
New Initiatives Support Growing Number of Students through College and Beyond
With 278 urban squash students enrolled in college today, NUSEA recently launched several new initiatives in collaboration with our member programs geared towards helping our college students and alumni earn degrees and prepare for the workforce. The initiatives include a peer mentoring program, an internship placement program, and a series of professional development and networking events around the country. Since 2003, a total of 435 urban squash students have graduated from high school, and 98% of these students have gone on to post-secondary schools.
Between academic demands, cultural adjustments to a new campus, and for some, time management as a student-athlete, urban squash alumni face challenges in their first year of college. To address this transition, NUSEA’s Campus Connections, which was unveiled this past fall, provides peer mentorship between 18 pairs of first-year college students and older urban squash college students or recent graduates. “I would describe our relationship as a sisterhood,” Brandy Williamson, Mount Holyoke ‘18, says of her bond with her mentee, Squash Haven alumna Lessly Portillo. “I really enjoy being Lessly’s mentor and providing her with the support I know that she needs being away from home.” Kevin Le, an Access Youth Academy graduate and first-year student at Wesleyan, notes how his mentor Raheem Logan taught him “how to balance schoolwork and squash, and to understand what to do under a lot of pressure when the academics get really tough. He’s been a great role model for me to look up to and listen to.”
Another new focus of NUSEA’s work is to open career doors for alumni post-college graduation. The Summer Fellowship Program, a summer internship placement initiative, introduces professional opportunities to high-achieving urban squash college students. Through partnerships with businesses and non-profit organizations, NUSEA has secured paid summer internships and will lead the process of matching qualified students to intern positions. Partners include ABC News, Teach for America, US Squash, NBC Universal, Exeter Summer School, Princeton Squash Camp, the Environmental Defense Fund, Simon & Schuster, Johnnie-O Clothing, and Williams Squash and Beyond Camp. “I think all the of these opportunities offered through NUSEA are incredible,” reflected Reyna Pacheco, Access Youth Academy alumna and a senior at Columbia University. “The urban squash goal is not just to graduate college but also to become a leader and a productive member of society. That third and final stage of career development is so crucial.”
NUSEA is also organizing more professional development and networking gatherings for alumni across member programs. NUSEA hosts bimonthly alumni hit-arounds in cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago and Baltimore in which large communities of alumni reside. Alumni hit-arounds continue to give students the chance to reconnect with urban squash and share updates with their peers and program staff.