SquashSmarts Celebrates Fifteenth Anniversary at U.S. Open

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SquashSmarts celebrates on the ASB GlassCourt: (l-r) Jose-Rubert-Zayas, Tempest Bowden, Lisa Stokes, Andy Nehrbas, Eric Zillmer, Molly Pierce, Melissa Gray and Chase Lenfest; (front holding banner) Joshua Morales

Group nights at the Delaware Investments U.S. Open is a common way for friends to gather for a great night of camaraderie and entertainment. More than twenty groups—ranging from college alumni to area squash clubs to high school and college teams to corporate cohorts—annually come in each year to the Open.

Tonight’s featured group was SquashSmarts. The official local urban squash charity of the Open, SquashSmarts has just kicked off its fifteenth anniversary season. Founded in 2001 and originally based at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, SquashSmarts has three partner schools (Roberto Clemente, Mary McLeod Bethune and Overbrook Education Center) and operates at Drexel and at its state-of-the-art, purpose-built, eight-court Lenfest Center in North Philadelphia. SquashSmarts provides academic support, squash instruction, fitness and nutrition support, personal achievement and life skills instruction and leadership training. Going against the national trend, 100% of SquashSmarts’ seniors graduate from high school and have gone to college. In addition, the students perform more than 500 hours of community service each year.

“SquashSmarts is delivering on its promise to Philadelphia’s underserved youth,” said SquashSmarts executive director Steve Gregg, “and tonight was a great way to celebrate our past and look forward to the future.”

More than 150 board members, supporters, advisors, partners and sponsors of SquashSmarts came to the Open tonight, as well as fifty high school students and their families. The evening was punctuated by an on-court presentation. Jose Rubert-Zayas, a current tenth-grader, and Tempest Bowden, a graduate of the program now back on SquashSmarts’ staff, spoke of the profound effect the program has had on their lives.

Then Bowden gave SquashSmarts’ second-annual Distinguished Service Award to Andy Nehrbas. The president of SquashSmarts’ board of directors, Nehrbas has been involved with the program since its founding fifteen years ago—Bowden first met Nehrbas when he was dropping off a car-load of food at her first practice—and has helped position it for its next fifteen years.