The Aspen Institute has named SquashSmarts, the Philadelphia after-school youth-enrichment program, as a Project Play Champion.
The Aspen Institute’s Project Play program develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports. They work with leading organizations to develop solutions to foster quality sports activity for all youth, regardless of zip code or ability. Project Play is a multi-year effort to grow national sport participation rates and related metrics among youth.
“No one organization alone can build healthy kids and communities through sports,” said Tom Farrey, Aspen Institute’s sports & society program executive director. “It will take like-minded groups, even competitors, collaborating to get kids off the couch without running them into the ground. The need for Project Play is clear. The number of kids, especially lower-income youth, playing sports keeps decreasing. Only 37 percent of all kids ages six to twelve played team sports on a regular basis in 2017—down from 45 percent in 2008. This is a public health concern as physical activity declines for youth.”
In 2019 SquashSmarts—a place-based nonprofit in North & West Philadelphia offering free out-of-school time program that integrates squash education, academic support and leadership skills—will hire a program alum as an in-school engagement coordinator to work with physical education teachers to introduce free squash sessions into the schools’ gym curriculum. To date, SquashSmarts has partnered with five targeted schools that have limited gym or after-school activities in those neighborhoods, which serve 130 kids in sixth to twelfth grade and eighty alumni (ages eighteen to twenty-four) in its core program. SquashSmarts commits to growing engagement and programming towards younger students in fourth and fifth grade, with a goal of expanding community program reach to 600-800 kids in these partner schools.