Doors Open at Urban Squash Cleveland’s $3 million Youth Center
Buffalo’s 716 Squash Officially Joins SEA
Kids On Point Opens Renovated Squash Facility at College of Charleston
Chicago’s MetroSquash Opens Second Program in Evanston
Israel’s SquashBond Becomes Fifth International Affiliate
Three New Staff Members Join SEA
Staff Spotlight: Nessrine Arrifin
“Urban Squash Cleveland students finally have a home,” says Executive Director Iago Cornes, when asked about the newly opened Youth Development Center. And a home it is. On October 13, the eight-year old program celebrated the grand opening of a 10,000 square-foot, four-court facility on Urban Community School’s Cleveland campus. The center is equipped with a large classroom, locker rooms, offices, and a striking all-glass squash court. The opening of the facility is a remarkable accomplishment and will allow USC to nearly double its student enrollment in the coming years.
Beginning as a vision among the Cleveland program’s board, this $3 million capital project was no simple task. “Raising the funds and overseeing the construction was a total team effort,” says Board Chair Joe Juster. “We are forever grateful to everyone who embraced the vision and worked relentlessly to make it a reality. Because of their efforts and generosity, more and more of Cleveland’s young people are getting, and will get for years to come, an equal shot at success.”
USC’s key partner is Urban Community School, an independent school serving primarily low-income students from preschool through eighth grade. Urban Community School is one of several that partner with Urban Squash Cleveland to reach students beginning in elementary school. “We are very excited to have the Urban Squash Cleveland Youth Development Center on campus, ” says the school’s President Tom Gill. “We continue to pride ourselves on being an anchor in the neighborhood where strong community is built. The new addition not only will provide great opportunities for many children of [Urban Community School], but also for the surrounding community. It is yet another example that has proven we are better together in partnership than we are on our own.”
Urban Squash Cleveland will manage the entrance, organize all of the programming inside, and recruit students from other schools as well as Urban Community School. The center will improve efficiency and increase capacity for USC, while also serving the surrounding squash community. “Staff, interns and volunteers are now able to spend the entire time during sessions helping team members focus on their academic work and squash,” says Cornes.
The excitement in Cleveland about the facility was palpable at the October opening. Government officials, community leaders, squash players, and three-time world champion Nick Matthew gathered to celebrate the milestone. Among the attendees was SEA’s Executive Director Tim Wyant. “Throughout the evening, I kept thinking to myself, ‘This program is here to stay.’ It is a beautiful facility, and in being on the campus of Urban Community School, it represents a powerful new facility model within the SEA network. Everyone involved with Urban Squash Cleveland should be enormously proud of what they’ve accomplished. Cleveland will benefit from the facility for decades to come.”
In the fall of 2017, after seven years at Baltimore’s SquashWise, Hope Blinkoff Lynch headed north to her hometown of Buffalo, NY, hoping to introduce the success of the squash and education model to a new community. Hope hit the ground running, assembled an outstanding board of directors, partnered with local schools Nardin Academy, West Hertel Academy and West Buffalo Charter School, and recruited 25 fourth and fifth graders to join the program. In late November, 716 Squash reached a milestone when it was officially welcomed by the SEA Board of Directors as the 19th member program, bringing the network to a total of 19 U.S. programs operating in 22 cities.
MetroSquash Executive Director David Kay, who serves on SEA’s Board of Directors, visited the Buffalo program this fall. “716 Squash provides a best in class illustration of what can happen when a passionate leader, an engaged local board, and strategic guidance from a national governing body, join together effectively to launch a program,” says Kay.
As an SEA member, 716 Squash will enjoy benefits, including access to squash tournaments, camps, summer academic programs, travel subsidies, staff retreats, and reduced tournament and membership fees through US Squash. Hope and her colleagues were eager to join the network soon after launching. “In my experience,” says Lynch, “if you ask any SEA participant what he/she enjoys most about the program, the answer is almost always, ‘traveling and making new friends.’ Our Buffalo students are now part of an ever-expanding network of opportunities to travel outside of their neighborhoods and meet new people from around the world.”
For Lynch, the impact is what drives her hard work, “Now in my 9th year of involvement with SEA, there’s nothing I’d rather do than help provide access to life-changing opportunities for kids in Buffalo who both need and deserve them the most.”
716’s Vice Chair Carey Anderson has played a key role in the organization’s launch. “It’s been an incredible first year for 716 Squash,” said Anderson. “The stars totally aligned for us in Buffalo with Hope coming back as well as tremendous leadership from a strong board that brought experience and a range of skills to launch our program. The fact that Nardin Academy recently opened a seven court squash facility with a classroom has been key! We’re thrilled for the opportunities we’ll be able to offer our kids because we’re now an SEA member.”
Since 2010, Kids On Point has partnered with the College of Charleston to expose students to new opportunities in the classroom, on the squash court, and in the community. In November, the South Carolina member program and the college celebrated the opening of five newly renovated squash courts. Thanks to $500,000 in donations, the Kids On Point Squash Center is now open on the college’s campus and in use by the program, college students, faculty and staff. The renovation is a milestone for both institutions and will take Kids On Point’s programing to the next level.
“The opening of the new Kids On Point Squash Center represents the physical manifestation of our partnership with the College of Charleston,” says Todd Abedon, Development Chair and former Board Chair. “Kids On Point looks forward to working with the College of Charleston to develop a dynamic and supportive ecosystem centered around the game of squash that will benefit it’s students, KOP students and the Charleston Community.”
Having a home base for programming on a college campus is undeniably valuable. In addition to rigorous after school activities, student participants see firsthand the futures they aspire to. “When they first came to us about the idea of an after-school program, I was excited,” says the college’s Dean of Education Fran Welch. “I knew we could use the resources we had on our campus to help make a difference in the lives of some of the children in our community. That was my initial thinking. This was an opportunity to expose low-resource children and their families to our campus and to let them see that college was an opportunity for them.”
“Nearly all of SEA’s member programs are partnered with universities, and the partnership that Kids On Point has with the College of Charleston is among the deepest and strongest in our network,” says SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. “The opening of this outstanding facility cements and expands this relationship, and firmly plants the SEA flag in the South. Hats off to everyone at Kids On Point and the College for making this dream a reality.”
“The new squash center is a game changer for our community, ” Executive Director Lauren Herterich proudly notes. “It will be a safe haven for a growing number of kids participating in Kids On Point programming, ultimately deepening our partnership with the College of Charleston and creating a robust year-round support system for our students, volunteers, and families.”
Kids On Point, which enrolls 48 students in grades 3 through 12, is the only SEA member program located in the Southeastern part of the United States.
With thirteen years under its belt and an academic and a squash facility in Chicago’s South Side, MetroSquash continues to push boundaries. This fall, the midwestern program partnered with the McGaw YMCA to introduce its work to Evanston. MetroSquash updated the McGaw facility’s three squash and three racquetball courts and spent the fall recruiting middle school students and hosting tryouts.
Given their shared missions, the partnership was welcomed by both McGaw and MetroSquash. “When MetroSquash approached us to start a partnership, it was easy,” notes McGaw President and CEO Monique Parsons. “They are complementary experts in program design and delivery. We are thrilled to expand the presence of youth and competitive squash at McGaw.”
MetroSquash Board Chair Brian Sedlak is also excited about the possibilities offered by working with Northwestern University. “We have had such a great partnership with the University of Chicago in our Woodlawn facility that the opening of the Evanston facility near Northwestern’s campus gives us the ability to tap volunteers from Northwestern to help our students,” notes Sedlak. “Impacting more students with the MetroSquash program to help them achieve their goals is something we have tried to do each year of our program. The Evanston facility was the next logical extension of this vision.”
This is the fifth of SEA’s 19 member programs to expand to additional locations. SquashBusters operates three programs — in Boston, Lawrence, and Providence — while two-site organizations include StreetSquash in Harlem and Newark, CitySquash in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and SquashSmarts in West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia.
SEA is proud to announce that Israel’s SquashBond has become SEA’s fifth international affiliate. Operating in two cities in Israel — Ra’anana and Haifa — the program provides academic support and squash instruction while bringing together groups of children who would rarely interact otherwise. The organization was launched in October of 2013 by Nitzan Moree and Hillel Bloomberg with the foundational belief that the sport can foster great unity and camaraderie. “The bonding power of the game of squash is something we experience since we started playing this sport and it is magical to have the opportunity to connect diverse populations all over the world,” explains Moree, Executive Director of SquashBond.
In addition to regular squash and fitness programming, SquashBond offers cross-cultural programming to Arab and Jewish Israelis, with educational activities in Arab, Hebrew, and English languages. The program has 70 Jewish, Muslim, and Christian participants of elementary, middle, and high school ages.
“I have long admired SquashBond, beginning with my and George Polsky’s first meeting with Nitzan and Hillel in New York City in 2013,” explains Tim Wyant, Executive Director of SEA. “Since then, my colleagues and I have watched with interest and enthusiasm as SquashBond has grown into the organization that it is today. Everyone at SEA is inspired by the work that SquashBond does for its students and families.”
By joining SEA, SquashBond will gain access to opportunities for its students, staff and board members. SEA membership will also enable the organization to connect to a global network of similar nonprofits. SEA’s other international affiliates include Urban Squash Toronto, Squash Urbano Colombia in Cartagena, Khelshala in Chandigarh, India, and Egoli Squash in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“Each program in every corner of the world has its own contribution,” explains Moree. “But the importance of uniting efforts brings a bigger message and a wider impact in every aspect.”
SEA is excited to welcome three talented new staff members to our team, each of whom is based in our New York City office. “Sonia, Maggie, and Nina bring a variety of experiences in education, squash, and the nonprofit sector, and our network is already benefiting from their dedication and commitment to this work,” says SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. “We’re thrilled to have them onboard and look forward to watching them make SEA a stronger organization.”
Sonia Gonzalez, Director of Educational Partnerships & Alumni
Sonia focuses on our educational programming and partnerships, college student and alumni support, and academic programming. Originally from Texas, Sonia is an alumna of KIPP Houston and the University of Chicago, and is a Bezos Scholar. She recently completed her Masters in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy at NYU Steinhardt. Previously she worked as a college counselor, instructor and academic advisor for the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, and ran a mentorship program for first-generation college students of color at NYU’s Center for Multicultural Education & Programs. Outside of SEA, she can be seen doing improv comedy around the city.
Maggie Riehl, Development & Communications Associate
Maggie supports SEA’s development and communications efforts through print and online communication, social media, donor cultivation and stewardship, grant writing, and event support. Maggie has served in various mentoring and volunteer roles at nonprofits. After graduating from Colgate University, she returned to her hometown of Baltimore to work in fundraising at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the city’s 22-location library system. While not a squash player herself, she grew up around the sport and is excited to support the network.
Nina Kelly, Director of Squash
Nina oversees SEA’s squash programming. She focuses on organizing regional and national competitions and managing elite squash development camps throughout the school year and summer. Nina also serves as a liaison between SEA, US Squash and coaches throughout the network. A CitySquash alumna who was born in Honduras and grew up in the Bronx, Nina graduated from Bucknell University, where she founded and led the club squash program. Prior to joining SEA, Nina attended graduate school at the University of Bologna and worked at a museum and marketing agency. She has also worked as a junior squash coach in Connecticut.
SEA’s 19 member programs rely on over 50 dedicated squash experts to spread their love of the sport and introduce the game to the next generation. One such leader is Nessrine Arriffin at SquashBusters, the oldest program in the SEA network. In her role, Ness develops the squash curriculum, organizes a mentor programming, and, most notably, supports the individual growth of her students. When she’s not on court with high schoolers, she’s playing at tournaments across the country, picking off her opponents one at a time.
Ness has been playing squash for nearly two decades, first learning the game at the age of nine and eventually moving from Malaysia to the United States to attend Bates College. During her time at Bates, Nessrine played a vital role in helping take the women’s squash team from contenders to winners. Not only did she hold an individual singles record of 44-16, she competed solely at the no. 1 position. Ness was a squash standout, named NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2012 and honored as an All American. “Nessrine consistently pushed herself, while also helping her less-skilled teammates, and this attitude and commitment towards the team made us all more successful,” recalls Bates Coach Pat Cosquer. “Not only did she excel on the squash court, but she pushed her teammates (and the men’s team) to do better academically. Nessrine is one of the most well-rounded student athletes to ever play squash at Bates College.”
Upon graduating in 2015, Ness joined the SquashBusters staff in Boston and turned back to the pro circuit. Since then, she’s played in the Massachusetts State Open three times, reaching the semis her first year, and winning it all in 2017 and 2018. Currently ranked #134 in the world, Ness won the US Squash Skills tournament in October before going 4-0 in her Howe Cup matches this November. Ness also competed this fall in the Rhode Island Open, losing in the quarter finals to current world #59 player, Nicole Bunyan of Canada.
With a naturally calm demeanor off-court, Ness loves the game, which brings out her competitive side on court. At SquashBusters, she tries to instill a sense of self-discipline and perseverance in her students. “Teenagers want to see immediate results,” she says, “but it’s important for them to learn that sometimes it takes years to see progress.”
“We’re incredibly fortunate to have someone of Ness’ skill and accomplishment working in the SEA network,” said SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. “She is a consummate professional, and Boston students benefit greatly from having the opportunity to learn from her and be inspired by her example.”