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Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Bobby Rush and Alderman Willie B. Cochran today opened the MetroSquash Academic & Squash Center located at 6100 South Cottage Grove in Woodlawn. MetroSquash provides youth with squash and wellness programing, academic tutoring, enrichment, mentoring and life skills to augment their success in school and matriculation to and through college. The $7 million, 21,000 square foot facility is the organization’s first free-standing site.
“METROsquash is about more than instilling a love of sport. It is about providing the skills that our children need to succeed on the court and giving them the skills they need for the future they deserve,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This project builds on our collective efforts to help our children reach their full potential and help Woodlawn reach its full potential.”
“Our children need positive and safe outlets within the community to grow. MetroSquash will offer youth within the Woodlawn community instrumental academic training to prepare them to enter their best matched high schools and to lead them to and through college. MetroSquash programming seeks to enrich the lives of our community’s youth while transforming their lives for a bright future,” said U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.).
The new facility houses eight squash courts, four classrooms and community space for 300-plus youth in 5th grade through college. The City provided $5 million in New Markets Tax Credits for the project that is part of Woodlawn Park, a mixed-income, mixed-use development by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) on the site of the former Grove Parc apartment complex.
In 2011, the City in partnership with POAH received $30.5 million as one of the first recipients of a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant to support new and renovated housing, as well as programs and services for Woodlawn residents, broader investment in community schools, public safety, infrastructure and job training. Introduced by the Obama Administration in 2010, The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is a strategic approach intended to help transform high-poverty, distressed neighborhoods into communities with healthy, affordable housing, safe streets and access to quality educational opportunities.
“The ribbon cutting today is another significant step toward fulfilling the vision of what it takes to create a ‘choice community,’” said Alderman Willie B. Cochran. “This deliberate process of leveraging resources responsibly and in partnership, with a holistic emphasis on community, is positively impacting the Woodlawn community in a way that we all can be proud of.”
MetroSquash was founded in 2005 as an after-school, weekend, and summer program for under-served students from low-income families in chronically under-performing Chicago public schools. Since its inception, MetroSquash has helped 75 students enroll in high schools, including top boarding schools, parochial schools, and charter schools in Chicago and across the country and has also helped students earn over $2,000,000 in scholarships towards tuition for private schools, colleges, and squash and enrichment opportunities.
This school year, MetroSquash introduces its third graduating senior class, with 100 percent of the students on track to attend four year colleges, many of which will be the first in their family to do so. Current 12th grade students have already gained acceptance to over 50 colleges and universities. MetroSquash also has 17 freshman and sophomore students in its College Support Program at 15 collegiate institutions nationwide, and over the next 2 years, it will have an estimated 50 students with its first class preparing to graduate and enter the work force.
“The unique combination of sports and academic instruction along with mentoring, cultural enrichment and community service help students gain self-confidence, independence and academic training in preparation to be successful in middle school, high school and college,” said David Kay Executive Director of MetroSquash.