Rachel Edmonds Wins 2021 Alumni Achievement Award
We are thrilled to recognize SquashSmarts graduate Rachel Edmonds as our 2021 Alumni Achievement Award Winner. This special prize is given to one alumnus each year who demonstrates academic and professional success, strong leadership, personal integrity, and support of their member program.
A West Philadelphia native, Edmonds joined SquashSmarts in 2002 during its second year of operation. While she was new to squash, Edmonds had started playing tennis the summer before the SquashSmarts staff presented to her sixth grade gym class at Charles Drew Elementary. She joined the program that year and has remained engaged for nearly two decades.
Edmonds went on to graduate at the top of her class at Philadelphia High School for Girls, earn a Bachelor’s in mathematics from Haverford College, spend two years in the U.S. Peace Corps Lesotho, and complete a Master’s in Applied Science at Johns Hopkins University. She now works as a data scientist in Baltimore and serves on SquashSmarts’ Board of Directors.
Edmonds credits SquashSmarts with exposing her to college campuses at an early age, teaching her valuable skills that prepared her for future experiences, and keeping her connected to friends in Philadelphia and the larger squash and education network. “It’s a community wherever you go,” says Edmonds.
Edmonds was introduced to Haverford College on a campus visit with a SquashSmarts coach and Haverford alum. Just a few years later, she enrolled there herself, playing on the varsity squash team for a year, participating in a study-away program at Atlanta’s Spelman College, and spending a semester abroad at the University of Ghana.
Following college, Edmonds entered the Peace Corps. “Because I loved my study abroad experience in Ghana and wanted to work in international development, I joined the Peace Corps in Lesotho,” says Edmonds. (It didn’t hurt that her SquashSmarts coach and mentor that had attended Haverford was also a former Peace Corps member.)
“It was not easy. Everyday was a different adventure,” says Edmonds. “It taught me the importance of community.” Upon her return to the U.S., Edmonds shifted her focus to policy. “The Peace Corps is about grassroots and capacity building. You’re investing in an individual and seeing a life unfold. Working in policy, it’s more about a trickle down effect. I was curious, what does this look like from the reverse? I wanted to do monitoring and evaluating,” she recalls. This interest eventually led Edmonds to pursue a Master’s of Applied Science in Spatial Analysis at Johns Hopkins.
Outside of her career, Edmonds continues to make time to support SquashSmarts and serve as a role model for the next generation of program graduates. In 2020, she was elected to its Board of Directors, becoming the first program graduate to serve in this role. Members of the SquashSmarts staff describe Edmonds as “instrumental in helping SquashSmarts start its first alumni council and in providing a voice for change.” “She has returned to mentor current students through alumni panels, and through her work on the Board of Directors, Rachel advocates for a student-centric approach in board decisions whenever applicable,” says the staff.
Past Alumni Achievement Award Winners
2019 – Zoe Russell, SquashBusters
2018 – Danny Cabrera, StreetSquash
2016 – Jose Alvarez, CitySquash
2015 – Vicky Flamenco, SquashBusters