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By Erin Quinn ’09   Date: 4/28/09 Bookmark and Share

The Ball is in Their Court

A StreetSquash participant strategizes during a dodge ball game in Ainsworth Gym.

Earlier this month, four Smith students hosted a field day for two dozen middle-school students from StreetSquash, a program based in Harlem that uses squash as a “hook” to engage kids in enrichment activities.

The event was part of the course Education Through the Physical: Youth Sports (ESS 225), taught by Don Siegel, professor of exercise and sport studies. The students planned and orchestrated a variety of activities for the visitors with the goal of helping them develop their communication and teambuilding skills.

StreetSquash combines academic tutoring, squash instruction, college preparation, community service and mentoring for urban youth. The program is a member of the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), which is comprised of five programs from across the U.S. from San Diego to New York City. (Two members of the Smith Squash team—Shanita Williams ’11 and Jacinth Cooke ’11—are from Boston's SquashBusters, the first of the Urban Squash organizations.)

The StreetSquash field day was a culmination of two months of planning by the Smith students. The morning began with introductions and a “human knot” activity to highlight the importance of communication. The activities then began to pick up in intensity, as the children competed in traditional playground games such as kickball and dodge ball.

“These children were ready to go from the moment they walked into the gym and their energy and excitement was contagious,” said Caitlyn Tobias ’09, one of the coordinators of the day. “It was rewarding to see them enjoying themselves so much and knowing the exercise they were engaging in was beneficial to their health and development. Although there were moments filled with chaos, I think overall everyone involved enjoyed themselves and the day was a success.”

Fellow coordinator Jessica Welk ’11 admitted some parts of the day were difficult to managae. “But I learned so much from the children and had a great time working with them,” she added.

The day concluded with a buffet lunch and a group discussion in which the children talked about what they learned and enjoyed.

As they packed up to return home, the Smith students presented each participant with a customized certificate of recognition. While the certificates were a tangible souvenir from their trip to Northampton, their experience of a place very different from their hometown of Harlem will likely stay with them much longer.


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