Mission Squash is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers children from Houston’s underserved communities to activate their true academic and personal potential, and achieve their dream of a college education.
Why does the Mission Squash program have Eligibility Criteria?
There are three main reasons why we use eligibility criteria as a means for selecting students for program membership:
- To stay true to our Mission
- To maximize the impact of every charitable dollar raised
- To operate within space and staff resourcing constraints while providing the highest possible quality programming
Our recruitment process, eligibility and selection criteria have been designed around a single guiding principle:
Students families considering making the long-term commitment to the Mission Squash program must be able to demonstrate a clear and articulated socio-economic need for free, intensive and long-term programming taking place year-round: after-school, on weekends and during summer – and the long-term ambition of the student remaining in the program through high school, and ultimately enrolling in a 4-year college degree.
The criteria have been developed as a framework to allow applicant families a means of expressing this need, and for program staff to identify it. The Selection Process ensures that the program is a good fit for student and families, and that, should they be selected, they will have the necessary dedication and ambition to commit to the program long term.
The Recruitment Process
Students start the program in 6th grade, remain in the program through high school, and ultimately enroll in a four-year college degree.
We run a closed recruiting process for students in 5th grade within the feeder pattern for Hogg Middle School, where the majority of our programming is based. As of 2018 this includes:
- Browning Elementary School (94.7% economically disadvantaged, 79.9% at-risk students)
- Memorial Elementary School (72.3% economically disadvantaged, 68.7% at-risk students)
- Crockett Elementary School (66.8% economically disadvantaged, 62.1% at-risk students)
The majority of the students at these schools are zoned to Hogg Middle School.
The recruitment process consists of workshops and presentations on-site at those schools, typically held March-May, where Mission Squash Staff communicate the basic concepts of the program to students, and assess them for interest, attitude and basic coordination skills. Staff follow up by contacting potential candidate families to explain more about the program, and understand more about the student and his or her guardians. Families that show interest and/or need for the program may be invited to meet with staff. At that point, guardians may be asked to complete an eligibility survey which is used to establish whether families are likely to meet our eligibility criteria. We may also ask for supporting evidence including proof of household income.
Because we have limited control over the students that attend the workshops at feeder schools, we also offer an online application form that can be completed by parents of students zoned to Hogg Middle School in case their child should miss the workshop or not be selected to attend. Please contact us for more information.
About High School Programming
High school programming is only open to students who have completed the first three years of Mission Squash membership grades 6-8. For those students, we provide our own transport back to our facility at the end of the school via the Mission Squash Shuttle bus, enabling 9th-12th grade scholars to maintain their membership through college graduation. The majority of our high school students attend Heights High School, less than 1 mile away from Hogg, although we have also been able to arrange for small numbers of students enrolled at other High Schools to continue attending program.
1. Eligibility Criteria
Student families can be eligible by meeting both our social criteria and economic criteria. All students applying must also meet the basic requirements.
- Student must be a current 5th grader registered to attend Hogg Middle School starting in 6th grade
- If your student does not live in a home zoned to Hogg Middle School (for example, if he or she is a magnet student), but will be attending Hogg, you must live within a 45 minute drive (in traffic) from Hogg Middle School.
If a student is classified by the TEA as “economically disadvantaged” then they are automatically eligible for the program.
An economically disadvantaged student is defined as one who is eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Program, which uses the published Federal poverty threshold guidelines. Please note that attending a school (or school district) where 100% of students are given free school lunch is not on its own enough to satisfy the economic criteria. You must be able to demonstrate that, as an individual family, you qualify under the TEA definition of “economically disadvantaged.”
You may at any time be asked to submit additional evidence, which can include TEA-endorsed documents or evidence of household income, to prove qualification under the Economic criteria.
In addition to economic criteria, students must meet at least two of the following six social criteria which are aligned with the Texas Education Agency’s at-risk factors and definitions:
- Student will be first generation in family to attend four-year college in United States
- Student participates in an English as Second Language (ESL) program
- Student is classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP)
- Student lives in a single parent household
- Student is a racial or ethnic minority
- Student has an IEP (Individual Education Program) or 504 plan
- Student is considered “overage” by the Texas Education Agency
2. Selection Process ("Tryouts")
Potential scholars meeting the Eligibility Criteria above will be invited to participate in a Selection Process which typically takes place over several days during summer. The student will be assessed for their current and potential academic performance, potential in squash, understanding of the aims of the program, and more. Parents and Guardians play an active part of this process.
Students and Parents must articulate a strong desire and ambition for the student to graduate high school, and go on to study at a college or University for a four-year degree.
- Both Students and Parents must show and articulate a full understanding of the long-term academic nature of the program, the practice commitments and Program Expectations
- While some extra-curricular activities are seasonal, the Mission Squash program runs year-round families may need to prioritize which activities take precedence for their student.
- Students must show a high level of interest and desire to be in the program, and excellent attitude and effort during the Selection Process.
Applicants will be asked to provide a current grade card, and may be asked for letters of recommendation from teachers in a core academic subject (Math, English, Science).
- Applicants must not currently be failing any single class or be at risk of being asked to leave their current school.
- Student must not have a criminal record
- Student must not have been subject to serious school disciplinary proceedings
Students must show excellent engagement with the academic component of the Tryouts process.
Remember: your student is not expected to have played squash before trying out!
During the tryouts, students are assessed across a range of drills and physical activities. These range from basic coordination skills (throwing and catching), to basic drills with the racket and ball (e.g. bouncing the ball on the racket) and hitting the ball against the wall using the racket.
- Students must show 100% effort and focus in all drills and tasks.
- Students must show a basic level of coordination and racket ability that would give them the potential to become at least a strong recreational squash player as they progress. The majority of students applying will never have played squash before!
- Students must show “coach-ability”: the ability to listen to and respond to feedback from coaches.
- Students must show enjoyment, engagement and interest in the sport.
Please note that while fitness levels are not assessed during tryouts, effort during physical activities will be assessed. Fitness drills are a big part of squash training, and while we do not expect students trying out to already be able athletes, we do expect them to show that they can apply themselves and try their best.
Students not meeting eligibility criteria but who have expressed or demonstrated need for the program another way (this can include a meeting with program staff, written letters or written recommendations) may be considered for membership at the discretion of the Executive Director.
In rare cases, and at the discretion of the Executive Director, students showing exceptional squash and/or academic ability may be considered for membership in the program on that basis alone. Such students represent less than 5% of enrolled students.
Memberships under these circumstances will only be granted if the membership would not take a Scholarship place away from a student who does meet the criteria and has demonstrated significant need.
3. Final Selection and Membership
Should the student family meet both our Eligibility and pass the Selection Process, they may be invited to join the program for a probationary period before Full Membership (“The Scholarship”) is made available. Some families may be invited to a final interview with program staff before membership is granted.
Families accepted into the program will be visited at home by program staff to complete final paperwork and introduce parents and students to the program in detail.
Program membership is at the full discretion of the Executive Director.
During any period Mission Squash may operate a wait list.
Mission Squash reserves the right to add, remove and re-order the wait list at any time and for any reason based on program requirements. Mission Squash may or may not communicate the current position of students on the wait list at its discretion. Being on the wait list does not constitute a guarantee of future membership in the program.