With every smash of the ball or well-placed maneuver, students are learning each step of a lifelong game – one that could open their world to new opportunities. Welcome to a program called Capitol Squash, changing the narrative of this global racquet sport.
“It’s an out-of-school youth development program – we provide students with academic support, athletics and community service enrichment,” explains executive director Meg Taylor. Organizers of the non-profit visit Hartford public schools and share information about this opportunity. About 45 kids – 4th graders through high schoolers – are now in the program which is an eight year commitment. “There are twenty programs like ours across the country,” says Taylor. “We’re all urban squash programs that use squash as the hook to get inner city students into these programs and ultimately college…they’re able to really stand-out on their applications.”
The program is held at Trinity College, home to a stellar squash team, winner of 17 national titles. “To come into practice everyday and be surrounded by some of the greatest players in the country – in the world – we’re so lucky to be here – it’s a great partnership,” says coach Brendan McClintick.
“They said they’d help me get into schools and I just want to play a sport,” says 13 year old Zachary Bhola who has met new friends on the court and in the classroom during academic enrichment. “I hope I can go to a really good college…I want to be a mechanical engineer.”
“The model works, that’s the key thing, it’s proven to be successful,” says Taylor. “Of the programs across the country, 98% of students who take part matriculate into college.” The goal is also to help these kids build character and resilience – enabling them to become engaged adults. “Seeing our kids succeed is great,” says McClintick. “It’s hard to describe how proud you get when you see a kid win a match. Even when they lose a match and are out there fighting, you can’t help but feel so proud.”
Plans are in the works to expand the concept in Hartford and all around the country.
Click here to learn more about Capitol Squash.