The sun was out with not a cloud in the sky. It was a great summer afternoon to spend outside but today a group of kids in Toronto decided to spend their day indoors at the National Squash Academy. I was thoroughly impressed with the individuals at the Urban Squash Toronto (UST) program consisting of Executive Director, Shivani Ruparell, Squash Director, Jamie Nichols, Education Director, Jenice, and Team Builder, Roy. It was fantastic to experience one summer day in the lives of inner-city kids attending Toronto’s most prestigious squash facility, but more importantly, a center of excellence and learning.
Entrance to the National Squash Academy at Downsview Park, Toronto, Canada.
As you enter the NSA, you are immediately greeted with a friendly face, the squeaking of sneakers and the pounding of squash balls against the wall. Urban Squash Toronto has a nice little niche (classroom) right beside the dual row of squash courts.
Urban Squash Toronto Classroom. UST has their own special classroom setup near the entrance of the National Squash Academy.
Students inside participating in the academic portion of their day. They spend at least 1 hour performing educational activities tailored to their abilities.
Inside the classroom with Squash Director Jamie Nichols (Red shirt). Academics consisted of language, vocabulary, mathematics, English, and a variety of other subjects. The educational framework is provided by Oxford Learning Center. Each student is assessed and their learning is individualized to their current abilities.
The view from the classroom inspires and gets students to look out onto the courts. Squash courts are lining the walls on both sides as you walk out of the classroom. The students can’t wait to finish their academic work so they can go on to play some squash. Over the four hours spent at UST 3 of those were dedicated to team building and academics with one hour for squash.
Left to Right: Jenice (Education Director of UST), Shivani (Executive Director of UST), Robert (Squash Link), Roy (Team Builder of UST)
Academic Director – Jenice
Background: Teacher from Jamaica teaching inner-city children
Team Building Director – Roy
Background: Public Health, International Non-Profit experience
Squash Director – Jamie
Background: Junior Squash Coach
My interview questions with the various staff members (Shivani, Jenice, Roy, and others)
What are your sources of funding?
How do you recruit and retain mentors and coaches?
What are other activities/events do you carry out with the kids other than squash?
How do you get your kids out of regular school to join your program?
What factors are you looking for when making your student selection?
What do you feel are your markers for success?
Other notes/observations on the summer programme (distinct from the normal school programme during the fall-spring)
Updates from the UST Board
Urban Squash Toronto Report compiled by yours truly, Robert Ta
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