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Racquet Up youth squash program brings first national team title to Detroit

Detroit, Mich., After years of dominance by East Coast programs from Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, six young men from Detroit broke through with a victory in the National Urban Squash Team Championships this past weekend.

Aaron Levy, Edward Brown, Quran Davis, Darryl Washington, Jr., Antwan Ramsey, and J’aMonte Patmon swept the competition in New York City, winning the “Boys Under 19” age division in a tournament which fielded more than 500 players from 18 cities in the U.S., Canada, and even Colombia.

This victory marks a major accomplishment given that eight years ago a public school student in Detroit would have been hard-pressed to find access to a squash court, let alone world-class training.  The Racquet Up Detroit program offers year-round squash instruction and competitive opportunities coupled with intensive academic support, community service activities, college exposure, and long-term mentoring.  The program, which operates exclusively at the Northwest Activities Center, has grown to serve more than 100 girls and boys in 5th through 12th grade.

Emma Head, Racquet Up’s Squash Professional, said:  “It’s a testament to the hard work and commitment of these young men, not just this weekend but over the last 8 years week-in and week-out, and also a tribute to their dedicated families.  Their grit and desire to win has paid off in a big way.  We couldn’t be prouder.”

High school senior and 8-year team member Edward Brown commented: “Racquet Up Detroit is finally on the elite list of national championship teams.  It was a long time coming, but we all worked hard and earned it.”

Squash, an indoor racquet sport similar to racquetball, is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, with more than 1.7 million players and new facilities being constructed each year.  Access to the sport has grown immensely over the last 20 years thanks to the efforts of the Squash and Education Alliance which promotes the combination of educational support and squash instruction for public school students in America’s cities.

For more information, please visit our website: www.racquetup.org.

About Racquet Up Detroit

Racquet Up Detroit, founded in 2010, is an out-of-school program which focuses intensively on the long-term development of Detroit youth by promoting their educationhealth, and character through the provision of academic tutoring, health and fitness coaching, and youth development services.  Students enter in the 5th grade and continue through high school and college graduation.  This duration of support – up to 12 years – is unprecedented, but necessary.  For many participants, the path to college or other post-secondary educational opportunities is uncharted.  Getting through, and launching a career requires an additional level of support.

Racquet Up was modeled after several other successful “Urban Squash and Education” programs as a member of the Squash and Education Alliance. Twenty years of data from our sister programs across the country tell us that of the students who complete the program, 97% graduate high school and enroll in post-secondary schools. In addition, 65% percent of “urban squash” students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared with the national average of 24% for low-income students.

Racquet Up’s approach requires at least three days per week with each child outside of school, for three hours each time, including equal parts academic enhancement and athletic development using the racquet sport of squash.  While students may enter the program in 5th grade thinking they are joining a sports team, they soon realize that Racquet Up is a “one-stop-shop” for their development.  They volunteer in the community through organized service projects.  They visit Detroit’s cultural amenities.  They tour colleges and travel to squash competitions throughout the Midwest, Canada, and the East Coast.  Academic support is a mainstay, with literacy development, homework help, and supplemental tutoring at the core of the program.  They work on fitness and learn about nutrition, while also learning about conflict resolution and the value of a team. During the summer, their world broadens as they travel to academic, athletic, and outdoor adventure camps across the United States.

It all happens at the Northwest Activities Center, formerly the Jewish Community Center, at Curtis and Meyers in Detroit’s Bagley/Fitzgerald Neighborhood.  By design, the program is walking distance or a short drive from the participants’ schools and homes, making it a true community-based program.  This multi-faceted program becomes a much-needed hub for neighborhood children, offering them the support they need to progress in their education and personal development.

Other Racquet Up Detroit program accomplishments:

Ø  83% of students improved their ACT with an average increase of nearly 4 points over the school year

Ø  2 students engaged in 4-year scholarships to University Liggett School

Ø  37 students earned over $83,000 in scholarships to attend third-party summer programs across the U.S., including Choate Rosemary Hall, Hotchkiss School, Lawrenceville School, Princeton University, University of Virginia, Kenyon College, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Deerfield Academy, YMCA Camp Hayo-Went-Ha and Nissokone, Windsor Squash Camp, NUSEA Citizenship Tour, and Detroit Zoo Camp

Ø  10 RUD players ranked in the top 300 US Squash rankings, including the top female squash player ranked #55

Ø  Winner of 2017 Bronze Junior National Championship

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