Urban Squash’s 20th Anniversary Celebration exceeded all expectations on Saturday night with a gala dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel that raised over $2 million and was attended by over 800 guests from across the country and around the world. The evening’s presentation began with a surprise video greeting by First Lady Michelle Obama, who recalled her 2012 visit to SquashSmarts’ home in North Philadelphia and drew attention to the 97% urban squash alumni who continue their education after high school graduation. “We’re so grateful for the outstanding work of the urban squash movement and NUSEA, ” the First Lady said. “And we wish the best of luck to all of the urban squashers in New York this weekend competing in the Urban Team Nationals. Thanks so much. And happy 20th anniversary.”
The evening’s emcee was Laura Trevelyan, an anchor of BBC News America and a member of CitySquash Brooklyn’s Board. Other speakers included NUSEA Board Chair William E. Simon and NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant. Alumni speakers were Reyna Pacheco, the Columbia University junior from Access Youth Academy in San Diego, and Guillermo Moronta, who was a part of the first class of students in the the country’s first program, SquashBusters, and who is now an admissions director at Belmont Hill School in Boston, MA.
Luminaries in attendance included current and former world No. 1’s such as Nicol David, Natalie Grainger, Peter Nicol, Mark Talbott, Damien Mudge, and Alicia McConnell. And the night ended with a standing ovation for Greg Zaff, the founder of SquashBusters, who was honored for launching the urban squash movement.
The dinner was preceded by a best practices conference on Friday at the University Club where Teach For America Founder Wendy Kopp was the keynote speaker. On Sunday, the finals of the Urban Team Nationals took place at the University Club, Harlem’s StreetSquash and the Bronx’s CitySquash. Nearly 400 students competed from 15 cities across the country. Board members from all of the U.S. member programs participation in the weekend’s activities, and representatives of urban squash initiatives in Ireland, England, Colombia, Canada, Zimbabwe, and India attended as well.
Urban Team Nationals Results
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks
January 17, 2015
“Good evening, everyone. and welcome to Urban Squash’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. For twenty years, you all have been helping so many young people across this country get active and build the bright futures they deserve. And I saw the power of your work back in 2012 when I visited the SquashSmarts program in North Philadelphia. I saw the passion and drive of those students, and I saw the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that 97% of urban squash graduates continue their education after high school. Because I know that doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens because of the inspiration and support that you provide. And it happens because of the hard work of the students and alumni in this program, many of whom are here tonight.
I know these young people are doing everything they can to get a good education and build lives and careers worthy of their promise. And that’s really the core message of my Reach Higher initiative. I want to urge young people to believe in themselves and get the education they need to fulfill their boundless potential. And I really can’t think of a better set of role models for this effort than all of you.
My husband and I are so proud of you, and we’re so grateful for the outstanding work of the urban squash movement and NUSEA. We can’t wait to see all that you continue to achieve in the years ahead, and we wish the best of luck to all of the urban squashers in New York this weekend competing in the Urban Team Nationals. Thanks so much. And happy 20th anniversary.”
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