What is The Scholarship?

The Scholarship is an urban youth development program that provides socio-economically disadvantaged students aged 11 to 24 with a long term pathway to college. It follows the nationally proven Urban Squash model by combining intensive academic tutoring, mentoring, squash training, enrichment, travel, with unique access to private high school and college placement opportunities. Scholars attend program throughout the year after school, on weekends and over summer. The program is free-of-charge for families meeting socio-economic Eligibility Criteria and passing a Selection Process.

All scholars are required to attend a minimum of 100 hours of academics and 100 hours of athletic training per year, which means attending at least 90% of all practices offered. Students take part in at least one hour of academics and one hour of squash or fitness at every practice, with a short break for a healthy snack between activities. Programs and activities are staffed by salaried professionals and trained volunteers.

Practice soon becomes part of our Scholar’s daily routine, taking place every day after school from 3.50pm – 6.30pm and on most weekends at our purpose-built squash and education facility at Hogg Middle School in the Heights. While our middle schoolers simply walk down the hallway to get to practice, our high school Scholars are picked up from Heights High School in the Mission Squash Shuttle bus during a specially allocated period at the end of the school day, and transported to practice in time for Briefing.

Scholars needing extra help are required to attend Saturday academics and work on closing specific knowledge or skill gaps.

Four Walls Mean Freedom.

The Four Walls of Freedom represent our four major areas of programming: the four walls of a squash court at first appear to confine, but are later shown to be the catalyst for opportunity.

Academics

Equipping to end the achievement gap

Academics

➔ 100+ hours tutoring, homework help, SAT prep and study skills support each year

➔ State-aligned Individualized Learning and English language acquisition support
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Squash

The vehicle for discipline, wellness and disruption

Squash

➔ 100+ hours squash and fitness training, tournaments and team matches every year

➔ Squash skills, fitness and nutrition curriculum
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Mentoring

Deep investment in the individual

Mentoring

➔ All Scholars are matched with a career mentor of similar interests

➔ Mentors provide a long-term source of academic, personal and professional support
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Access

Hand placement in opportunity networks

Access

➔ College placement and Private High School preparation including SSAT support

➔ Local and National college visits, and ongoing mentoring through college graduation
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Our Scholarship Culture is College-Bound.

Upon signing the Family Contract at the end of Summer, new and returning Scholars are required to declare their commitment to the long-term aspiration of ultimately enrolling in a four-year college degree at a best-fit college.

Students begin attending program at the start of the academic year with a week-long induction process, culminating in our annual Racket Ceremony, during which scholars are required to demonstrate a working knowledge of our Scholarship Culture before being formally accepted into the program. As students progress through the program, the focus on college increases and new opportunities become available.

Culture Elements

  • Scholarship Contract and Handbook
    The Scholarship Contract and Handbook encapsulate the commitments made by parents and students to the long-term and intensive nature of the program, including the 90% attendance requirement, the commitment to attend throughout high school and enroll in a four-year college degree.
  • Homework Planner
    Students acquire planning and time-management skills by using their Mission Squash homework planner to track school and Mission Squash assignments. The planner is inspected and signed weekly by school teachers, parents and Mission Squash staff.
  • Grades and Goals
    Scholars and families are involved in ongoing grade tracking, goal-setting and review which takes place four times per year.
  • Scholar Resume
    Scholars learn to reflect the value of their achievements inside and outside of the program by maintaining a Mission Squash Resume.
  • Family Engagement
    Families stay close to program activities and are required to be actively engaged in their child's journey through middle school, high school and to college. All families receive a bi-weekly call from a stewarding staff member, are invited to special family-only events and receive weekly communications via email and SMS. Our staff-led Parent Forum is held monthly and provides details of upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and workshop activities.
  • Culture Points
    Students earn Culture Points for consistently demonstrating our Core Values and abiding by our Code of Conduct. These are used to unlock awards, travel opportunities and leadership privileges, and can also be exchanged for squash equipment. Points can be deducted too!
  • The Scholarship Journey
    Scholars start the program in sixth-grade with a clear vision of their journey though the program to college graduation, including earn-able privileges, awards, milestones, and opportunities.
  • Scholar Leadership Command
    Scholars are given space to develop their leadership skills by leading team practice, enrichment or service activities. Those earning the most Culture Points over time are eligible to be selected for the Scholar Leadership Command, which involves more responsibility, including monitoring team attendance, discipline, and academic and squash performance. The SLC meets monthly.

    Middle School students stay connected with High School Scholars through our peer-led "Squadron" groups which provide opportunities for peer mentorship and inter-squadron academic and athletic competition.

Trips, Tournaments and Community Service

While most of our time is spent in the classroom or on the squash court, we allocate around 10% of programming time to trips, travel, tournaments, enrichment and community service.

Through regular local, regional and national trips, including to top-tier high school, college and University campuses, places of work, and cultural destinations, Scholars develop a broad and informed view of future study and career options, cultivate new interests and strengthen their sense of team.

Events hosted by the Squash and Education Alliance like the Urban Team National Championships enable our students to connect with like-minded students at the 20+ other urban squash programs around the country, and experience collegiate campuses like Yale, Williams and Penn first-hand. Many of our Scholars have forged lasting friendships at these incredible events that feature as many as 500 participants from cities like Baltimore, New York, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Relationships with these programs opens up opportunities for student exchanges between cities.

Closer to home, the Mission Squash Shuttle (our 15-seater van) is used to transport students around Houston: to nearby private squash clubs The Downtown Club and Lifetime Fitness City Center, to play team matches, tournaments and clinics, or to other cultural destinations for supervised enrichment activities. Time spent traveling, competing and studying as a team creates a lasting bond between scholars, highlights the value of teamwork and builds character.

Where have we been?

Scholars visit in- and out-of-state colleges and schools to experience life on campus, take part in tournaments, summer squash or academic camps, and meet or interview with admissions and teaching staff. Many of these institutions have established squash programs.

  • Harvard University, MA 
  • Yale University, CT
  • Williams College, MA 
  • Amherst College, MA
  • Miss Porter’s School, CT
  • Avon Old Farms School, CT
  • Texas A&M, TX
  • University of Houston, TX
  • Rice University, TX
  • Urban Individual National Championships (Williams and Amherst Colleges, Massachusetts, hosted by Squash and Education Alliance)
  • Urban Teams National Championships (held between NYC, Philadelphia and Boston, hosted by Squash and Education Alliance)
  • Middle School National Championships (hosted by US Squash in New Haven, CT)
  • Chicago Gold Tournament (hosted by US Squash)
  • Dallas Bronze Tournament (Plano TX, hosted by US Squash)
  • Amegy Bank
  • Centennial Gardens
  • Downtown Club at the Met
  • George R Brown Center
  • The Health Museum of Houston
  • Hermann Park
  • Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
  • Houston Grand Opera
  • Houston Heritage Museum
  • Houston Holocaust Museum
  • Houston Symphony
  • Lifetime City Center
  • Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)
  • Menil Gallery
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Natural History Museum
  • Rothko Chapel

Service is an important component of our culture, and helps scholars learn about issues relevant to their communities. All scholars are required to complete a minimum of 10 hours of community service per year, with some completing many more.

  • Autism Speaks 8k Run
  • Books Between Kids
  • Houston Food Bank
  • Interfaith Ministries
  • Kid’s Meals

By experiencing different workplace environments, scholars gain an early understanding of industries and jobs within them they may not otherwise be exposed to. Opportunities to visit places of work and take part in mock-interviews are often made available by student mentors, Mission Squash board members or donors.

  • Amegy Bank
  • JP Morgan
  • NASA (Johnson Space Center)
  • Novum Energy
  • Wells Fargo

Scholarship Summer Camps

Summer learning loss is a well documented phenomenon, with up to 30% of school-year learning lost over the summer break.* It tends to have a greater impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds because the flow of resources slows down. Higher-income students may continue to have access to financial and human capital resources (such as parental education) over the summer, thereby facilitating learning. The learning loss delta for low-income and ethnic minority groups appears to be particularly pronounced in reading.
* Quinn & Polikoff 2017: Summer learning loss: What is it, and what can we do about it?

All Mission Squash Scholars are required to attend at least four weeks of Summer Scholarship Camps, which consist of academics, squash and fitness and enrichment programming. Weeks are typically themed, and combine related classroom work, on court squash and fitness and trips around Houston. Our goal for all students over summer is to avoid a decline (or where possible facilitate improvement) in reading ability, which we measure using lexile scores.

Check out our 2016 Summer Camp program report for an idea of what our typical summer camp looks like.

Every year Mission Squash also offers an Elite Summer Camp, which is a paid camp open to the public led by a top world-ranked professional. The Elite Camp helps us raise funds for the program and benefits local junior squash players with a unique opportunity to receive world-class coaching.

Annual Scholarship Events

Our Annual Scholarship Events provide a year-round heartbeat at program. They are used as a way of celebrating our Scholar’s achievements, recognizing our staff and volunteers, and having fun.

See our online calendar for upcoming events, including our signature fundraisers (please note that not all events are open to the public).

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Program Metrics and Impact

We synthesize and analyze program data in our custom-built cloud platform, “Mission Control.”

Data is used to track and drive effective programming that creates real outcomes for our students, and also to ensure we are aligned with Squash and Education Alliance program criteria.

See Impact >>

Personal Data

Student and Guardian data is collected internally and provided by the Houston Independent School District upon approval from each family.

  • Personal Information and Family Profile
  • Household Income
  • Socio-economic Eligibility
  • Demographics
  • School History
  • Special Requirements (e.g. Individual Education Plans, 504 Plans, English Language Learner)
  • Medical and Physical History
  • Background Information

Program Data

  • Enrollment by team and grade level
  • In-year and between-year retention
  • Average Membership Tenure
  • Absence History and Attendance
  • Guardian and Student Interaction History
  • Student and Guardian Issue History (casefiles)
  • Programming Hours Offered and Utilized per student
  • Mentoring Interaction Hours
  • Volunteer Hours per volunteering type
  • Trip and Event Attendance
  • Cost per program hour per student

Academic and Behavioral Data

Academic data for Mission Squash scholars, and comparable peer groups, is provided by Houston Independent School District, the Texas Education Agency and also collected internally.

  • Grades per subject per grade cycle, 5th – 12th Grade
  • GPA, 5th – 12th Grade, all core and non-core subjects
  • Grade Book grades and assignment completion – ad-hoc
  • STAAR (State testing) scores at TEK (learning objective) level
  • School Absences
  • Behavior Scores
  • Disciplinary Offenses
  • Award / Deduction of Culture Points
  • Positivity Ratio (social-emotional benchmark)
  • Individualized Learning (software-based) assignment and testing scores (TEK-aligned)
  • Lexile Scores
  • SSAT Scores

Physical Data

Physical testing scores are recorded three times per year. For some measures we are able to obtain comparative results from a non-Mission Squash control group.

  • Beep (pacer) test score (measure of aerobic fitness)
  • Vertical jump (power measure)
  • Single leg hop distance (power measure)
  • Single leg balance (proprioception/balance measure)
  • 10 court sprint time (speed measure)
  • 20 court sprint time (anaerobic endurance measure)
  • Racket touch test (squash-specific agility measure)
  • Indoor bike tests (various aerobic and power measures)
  • Squash Skills Test Results

Going beyond simple tracking, we use insights from our data to create specific program objectives, and to drive effective change for our students. Some examples:

  • Academic metrics help us segment students into learning cohorts, align our academic interventions with the needs of those cohorts, and improve the effectiveness of the interventions themselves – ultimately improving academic outcomes for all students.
  • Physical metrics allow us monitor our student’s health, making their achievements more visible to them and incentivizing them to reach the next level. They also enable us to compare our student group to peers, and to adapt and refine our athletic programming to best serve our goals.
  • Culture metrics help ensure we are driving a consistently positive culture that builds character and relationships.
  • Program metrics help us ensure we are running a rigorous and disciplined program – for example, following up on every student absence or missed assignment, management of high school or college applications and timely resolution of student or guardian issues.