Boys and girls in the SquashBusters Program get 60 to 90 minutes of academic help and then 60 to 90 minutes of squash instruction three days a week from September to June. The Arlington Middle School students are scheduled to attend Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while the Wetherbee School students go Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
The 48 participating children are picked up at their schools between 2:20 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. and they are back in Lawrence by about 6:30 p.m.
The Saturday schedule is simply two hours of squash, with the two schools coming together to play.
In other words, this is the real deal.
“I had run into a number of SquashBusters kids at youth tournaments that my son, Seve (a Brooks School student), had played,” Elkin said. “I was always impressed by the way they conducted themselves. To be blunt, it’s not the easiest thing for a bunch of kids from inner-city Boston to move comfortably in the Wellesley/Weston-Mercedes/BMW-private school world of squash, and yet the SquashBusters’ kids did just that.
“I love the intensive, long-term approach that the program takes. They ask the students to make a seven-year commitment and to work for everything they get — in the classroom, on the court and in the community. That’s extraordinary.”
The Lawrence kids have reaped many benefits in about 16 months, including traveling to tournaments at some elite colleges in New England while rubbing elbows and competing against their peers.
“I’ve been to Harvard, Yale and Williams (College) for tournaments,” said Phoenix Almonte, 12, a seventh-grader at the Wetherbee School. “They are amazing places. I would love to go to Harvard some day. I want to be a doctor. And maybe I could play squash there, too. I’m pretty good.”
In fact, Almonte’s most memorable experience as a SquashBusters member was his overnight trip to play a tournament at Williams College.