Northeast, OH -- When Selina Hokello first heard about the sport of squash, it was a little confusing.
“The only squash I had heard of was, like, the vegetable, used for soups and foods," she said.
The activity goes back nearly 190 years, tracing its roots to England. But in the United States, squash has a perception for being most accessible to affluent people. But groups like Urban Squash Cleveland are aiming to use the sports as a vehicle to help inner city students learn life lessons both on-and-off the court.
- Now in its eighth year
- Squash traces it roots back 190 years to England
- Recruiting not on athletic or academic ability, but instead emphasize engagement and effort
Group officials make presentations at a handful of local schools, explaining the sport and their mission. Organizers recruit not on athletic or academic ability, but instead emphasize engagement and effort.
Now, two years later, eighth grader Hokello is a officially a squash enthusiast who can succinctly sum up the game.
“I’ll usually compare it to tennis, but in a boxed court, a square court, and then you’re just playing against one person to 11, until three out of five," the Urban Community School student explained.
Hokello is one of roughly 50 Cleveland students spend at least three days a week at the group's just-opened facilities.
“With time, and with dedication to the sport of squash, our kids learn they can accomplish anything, they can be anything they really want to be," he said.
Urban Squash Cleveland is a partner organization of the Squash and Education Alliance. The group reports that 98 percent of their athletes that stick with a program graduate high school, and 65 percent go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in six years.
The perseverance necessary to hit goals like that is a skill students can hone while playing.
“When things get tough on the court, I just learned never to just stop and give up, I always keep pushing, no matter how tired I get,” said 18-year-old Urban Squash team member Noah Lee.
Now in its eighth year, officials hope to eventually expand programming so younger students can be introduced to the sport, opening up the chance for even more kids to learn life lessons just like Hokello said she has over the years.
“Even in the beginning, when you think that you’re trash or you just can’t do anything, that you’ll eventually succeed and get through," Hokello said.