The Pilot | 2011 – 2014
Mission Squash was founded as a nonprofit in late 2011 by Alistair Barnes, who was inspired by a visit to Street Squash, one of the oldest and largest Urban Squash programs, based out of a purpose-built $10m facility in Harlem New York. With 10 squash courts, academic classrooms, offices and a library, Street Squash currently serves up to 250 economically disadvantaged students each year, grades 6 through 12, providing each with over 100 hours of academic support, 100 hours of squash training and over 20 hours of community service after school – at no cost to their families. He learned how, of the students that stay the course with Urban Squash, 98% would matriculate to College.
Alistair combined his desire to close the opportunity gap for Houston’s underserved youth with his passion for education and squash, and in 2012, “Mission Squash” began pilot operations in Houston, partnering with Gregory Lincoln Education Center, a public middle school close to Downtown. Programming was run out of a private sports club, the Downtown Club at the Met, with a small part-time staff and volunteers. While this model proved a good way to get started, it had inherent logistical limitations that prevented growth. Competition for court time and space with club members meant our students faced limited access to squash training and classroom work. Student membership was in fact limited to only 10 children.
Breaking New Ground | 2015
Enter a chance meeting with the former principal at Hogg Middle School, a school in the Heights area of Houston with an 81% economically disadvantaged student population, and a dusty old auxiliary gym with the correct minimum ceiling height for squash and ample extra space within.
Mission Squash presented to the Houston Independent School District Board, and was awarded with a unanimous vote in favor of building the first ever urban squash program within public school grounds in North America.
Through Spring 2015, Mission Squash engaged in a $200k capital campaign, and in July 2015 completed the construction of its state-of-the-art squash and education facility.
The facility features three international-sized squash courts, a full-capacity academic classroom equipped with a custom-built study stations, and a small program office. The facility was designed in conjunction with McWil and local designer Gin Designs to ensure optimal utilization of the space with an emphasis on productivity.
Room for Growth | 2015 – Present
Our location within the grounds of a public school has allowed us to offer two separate programs, which have together served more than 500 students.
- Our Scholarship Program leverages the intensive urban squash youth development model. It runs after school, on weekends and over summer. The program combines academics, squash training, mentoring and college support and is available to students meeting our eligibility criteria and passing a selection process. Students Enrolled: 96
- During academic years 2015-17, Mission Squash introduced over 400 Hogg Middle School students to the sport through our Cadets Squash and Fitness PE Program, the first ever Squash program designed as a full credit public school PE class. Many students applied for the full Scholarship program having come to know the game through their PE class.
Without the barrier of transport logistics, our unique location allowed us to more easily retain students in the program year-to-year, deal with attendance and discipline issues and liaise more closely with school teachers to diagnose academic issues.
All programming provided by Mission Squash is funded solely through private and institutional donations.