The Welsh Connection

Scholars were treated to a VIP visit from the Welsh Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, the Chancellor of Swansea University, Professor Paul Boyle, and a delegation from the Welsh Government and Houston Independent School District.

It’s not often that a sitting representative from a foreign government drops in for a casual game of squash, but on September 3rd 2019, that’s just what happened, as scholars, staff and representatives from the Houston Independent School District joined forces with the Welsh Government at the Mission Squash Campus to celebrate and reflect on the achievements of the Mission Squash program and its scholars.

Minister Kirsty Williams CBE is a long-time advocate and facilitator of education reform, and was an architect and supporter of the Welsh Labour Government’s 2012–2013 £14.5bn budget which included securing the Welsh Pupil Premium, an extra £20m spent on the education of the poorest school children in Wales. She entered government following an agreement with the previous First Minister to lead a “national mission of education reform” at all levels.

Ms. Williams currently leads the Welsh Government’s education program, which includes reducing infant class sizes, delivering the most equitable and progressive student support system in Europe, and transforming the school curriculum. She was leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats 2008 – 2016, and as such was the first female leader of a Welsh political party.

The Minister’s visit to Mission Squash began with a program presentation by Mission Squash staff, covering the history of the urban squash model and Mission Squash’s progress to date. This sparked a particularly interesting group discussion, in which all parties present aligned on issues of equity in education, and identified systemic challenges common to both countries that urgently need to be addressed.

After the presentation, Scholars Gabby Corvera ’23 and Faustino Martinez ’23, who were both part of the first ever Mission Squash 6th grade class, gave the delegation a guided tour of our unique campus. Then, following a quick squash lesson from Mission Squash President, Alistair Barnes (a Swansea University alum), there was just time to play a few points with the Mission Squash scholars before the end of the visit. We’ve been told not to reveal who won!

Mission Squash would like to thank the Welsh Government for co-ordinating this visit, and our new partner Swansea University, who have committed to provide an annual rolling work-study placement for two Swansea University undergraduates. These students will assist the Mission Squash staff with program duties, and facilitate journaled scientific studies on the academic, physical and socio-emotional outcomes for students enrolled in the Mission Squash program.

We were fortunate to be joined during this visit by representatives from the Houston Independent School District Leadership including Rick Cruz, Director of Strategy and Innovation for the district and founder of EMERGE; Jyoti Malhan, founder and Principal of the award-winning Baylor College of Medicine School; and the leadership team from our first partner site, Hogg Middle School. We would like to thank them all for their support during this visit and throughout the year.

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