One hundred and ninety-eight members of the SquashSmarts family came to the 2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open tonight celebrating Junior Day presented by Zarett Rehab & Fitness. They included team members, board members, staff, alumni and friends of the Philadelphia after-school program. Four special volunteers were honored with the annual SquashSmarts Distinguished Youth Service Award.
A U.S. Open partner, SquashSmarts has just kicked off its sixteenth 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 for urban youth, 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 a cornerstone member of the National Urban Squash & Education Foundation, a coalition of nineteen programs around the nation.
Two couples were honored tonight with the fourth-annual SquashSmarts Distinguished Youth Service Award: Karen & George Gowen and Judy & John Wisniewski.
The Gowens are exceptional volunteers in part because of their unusual dedication to the program. They live in Chadds Ford, PA, and each Wednesday they drive an hour (if there is no traffic) up to the Lenfest Center to tutor SquashSmarts team members. For three summers they’ve hosted six students in Vermont, giving them a week filled with exploration and outdoor activities. They’ve helped guide students through the boarding school and college application processes and attend the annual Urban Squash Nationals in Massachusetts.
The Wisniewskis are also outstanding volunteers. Judy tutors every Wednesday at the Lenfest Center, and she and John have hosted students at their place in the Poconos. Moreover, the Wisniewskis orchestrated every detail of a magical trip: 141 Philadelphia urban athletes and their families—including thirty members of the SquashSmarts family—went to Disney World for a five-day, all-expenses-paid vacation in August. Whether it was a 5am airport departure or organizing rides, the Wisniewskis made it a trip of a lifetime.
Previous honorees of the SquashSmarts Distinguished Youth Service Award include: PYSC co-chairs Wendy Palmer and Nancy Peter (2013); alumni coaches Sakora Miller, Kareem Price, Devonte Harris and Mithun Das (2014); and founder and president Andy Nerhbas (2015).