METROSquash wraps up tryouts, kicks off 2016 program next week
METROSquash, a Chicago-based non-profit that uses the game of squash, combined with academics and mentoring, to help local public schools students reach their full potential held tryouts this month in advance of the program’s October 3, 2016 kick-off date.
“Potential MetroSquash students and families had the opportunity to check out the program and facility during our Open House and Tryouts,” according to the organization’ Facebook page. “During Tryouts, students and parents participated in squash, Team Building, and informational sessions.”
Founded in 2006, METROSquash began with about a dozen fifth graders, teaching them how to play squash at facilities at the University of Chicago. At the time, the university’s courts were the only ones in the area.
“We really use the game of squash as a hook to engage students academically,” METROSquash director David Kay told Illinois Business Daily earlier this year. “It’s a wonderful sport that has a great connection to education.”
In 2015, the organization opened a new, $6.5 million facility in Woodlawn. The facility boasts 21,000 square feet and eight new squash courts.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Bobby Rush and Alderman Willie B. Cochran all participated in the opening of the new facilities.
“METROsquash is about more than instilling a love of sport. It is about providing the skills that our children need to succeed on the court and giving them the skills they need for the future they deserve,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This project builds on our collective efforts to help our children reach their full potential and help Woodlawn reach its full potential.”
Congressman Rush agreed with the mayor.
“Our children need positive and safe outlets within the community to grow,” said Rush. “MetroSquash will offer youth within the Woodlawn community instrumental academic training to prepare them to enter their best matched high schools and to lead them to and through college.”
Having grown significantly since its initial days with a dozen students, METROSquash students now spend an average of 10 hours per week with the program after school and on weekends, split between playing or learning squash, and focusing on academics. Over the years, METROSquash players have traveled to 60 cities across six countries to participate in squash tournaments and other activities.
The expanded program and new facilities also come with increased cost — about $1.5 million per year in operating expenses.
Fortunately, local businesses, such as Dental Dreams, which recently contributed $50,000, have stepped up to support the program. Headquartered in Chicago, the dental services company specializes in serving famlies in underserved communities. Dental Dreams has 65 locations in 11 states – 18 of which are in Illinois – and more than 1,300 employees.
"It’s a very significant contribution, and we’re very fortunate to have Dental Dreams and other civic groups…(that) believe in the program and believe it takes a real investment to make a difference,” Kay said.
Since 2013, the program certainly has made a difference. One hundred percent of METROSquash students have graduated from high school, been accepted to college and enrolled in college.
The 2016 program kicks off October 3 and on Thursday, October 13th, supporters will come together in the annual “METROSquash Gala” to raise funds for the organization. The keynote speaker at this year’s gala is Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a top-ranked squash player from Waziristan, Pakistan.