The US Squash website reported:
“Imagine the First Lady of the United States, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and two dozen prominent mayors from across the U.S. walking into your house of business…then throw in a few dozen Secret Service, White House staffers, media and nearly 350 local VIP’s and guests. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself!”
That was the experience of Stephen Gregg, Executive Director of SquashSmarts, an after-school program in Philadelphia that combines the sport of squash with academic tutoring and mentoring of under-served, urban youth to develop self-esteem and discipline through academic, athletic and personal achievement.
“SquashSmarts’ business is helping kids. So when the White House and the Philadelphia Mayor’s office call to give you three-days-notice that Mrs. Obama would like to use your facility to promote her national youth initiative, our team was ecstatic.”
The SquashSmarts website wrote:
SquashSmarts and the Lenfest Center hosted First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama this afternoon to promote her Let’s Move! health and fitness youth initiative.
350 VIP’s, including Mayor Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, PA), Mayor Cory Booker (Newark, NJ), Mayor Joe Riley (Charleston, SC) and nine of their peers gathered at Philadelphia’s premier Hunting Park youth center to focus a spotlight on childhood obesity.
Let’s Move provides urban youth with innovative, low cost, and space‐efficient ways to get active and stay fit. The First Lady’s message echoes SquashSmarts mission to keep kids in shape in school and on track for a healthy life.
“SquashSmarts was honored to be chosen by the First Lady and Mayor’s office to host this special event,” says Executive Director Stephen Gregg.
Gregg spent a few moments briefing Mrs. Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Mayor Nutter on the benefits of squash as well as the national urban squash and education movement.
Mrs. Obama fondly recounted her first squash experience as a Princeton undergraduate. Later in the ceremony, she made a point of recognizing SquashSmarts’ graduate Sakora Miller among the crowd of spectators.
SquashSmarts team members Belkis Garcia, Jesus Caseres, Kayla Oadams, Makeedah Bowden, Najee Melton, Ibrahim Pate and Ishmael Pate were stars of the show as they demonstrated the KaBOOM! Imagination Playground under the supervision of SquashSmarts Program Director Katie Bicknese.
“This was the most exciting event SquashSmarts has ever had!” exclaimed 6th grader Belkis Garcia.
SquashSmarts is an innovative afterschool program combining the sport of squash with academic tutoring for under‐served, urban youth in order to develop academic and athletic achievement.
Founded in 2001, SquashSmarts is the third of twelve programs nationwide to utilize squash as a vehicle for changing young people’s lives.