What did you play outside with your friends? Baseball? Basketball? Running Bases? Four Square? Double Dutch? How about Squash? We’re almost certain that your reaction was the same as the youngsters in Harlem that were introduced to the sport for the first time. What the heck is Squash?
Squash is a high-speed racquet sport, akin to tennis, but played by two to four players in a walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Instead of swatting the ball toward an opponent, you play against the wall…sort of like Stoop Ball. But, the game, once a favorite past time of the nation’s elite, has become a neighborhood game amongst Harlem’s finest…its students.
The Harlem Street Squash program was formed by George Polsky, who is a former Harvard squash player, in 1999, and 93 percent of the participants, according to the National Urban Squash Education Association, have gone on to earn a college degree.
NBC’s Nightly News went to the center and interviewed some of the participants. One of the early graduates of the program, Rakey Drammeh, 19, is now a sophomore environmental studies major at Bates College in Maine. She recalls the experience with the program:
“I kept going and going and I really got into the sport,” said Drammeh. “I got a lot better and I met so many friends… I thought I can do this, this is fun.”
Drammeh’s participation in the after-school program took her grades from a report card full of B minuses to a report card full of A’s. Check out the program where youngsters are finding great success in their high school studies and becoming college graduates.