Who We Are
Urban Squash Toronto (UST) is a charitable organization that combines an intensive after-school, 7 days-a-week, yearlong education program with concentrated athletics (principally squash). We support under served youth in the Jane-Finch corridor to reach their full academic, athletic and personal potential.
Our program includes a professional academic program (Oxford Learning & York University teaching placements), mentoring, community service, leadership and athletics. Students start at UST in Grade 6 and remain in the program throughout high-school.
UST is modelled after a highly successful U.S initiative, the Squash + Education Alliance (SEA, https://squashandeducation.org/). SEA started in the mid 1990s and has now grown to 18 U.S and 4 international sister charities, UST being the only Canadian chapter. In 2015 SEA charities had over 2,000 students participating in their urban squash programs with an impressive 93% earning post-secondary degrees.
What We Do
Our core program delivers 7 mixed academic and athletic sessions per week to each student. These one to three hour sessions take place before school, after-school and on the weekends. UST provides dedicated bus transportation for the students, to and from their schools, and are brought to our four-court squash facility in Downsview Park, where the principal curriculum is delivered. Youth are provided with a healthy meal including sandwiches, fruits and vegetables.
UST has partnered with Oxford Learning to provide a professional academic program. When each student starts at UST, they are cognitively assessed by a certified assessor from Oxford Learning. Analysis of those results allows for the development of an individualized learning plan for each student. These plans outline specific learning strategies and the process for each to become independent learners, build their self-esteem and confidence. Each plan ultimately creates an overall improvement in a students academic performance.
The athletics (squash) curriculum is also targeted and specific to each student. Squash is used as a vehicle to help students learn about decision-making, commitment, and hard work. It includes strategies to build strength, skills, resilience, discipline and good sportsmanship with individual short and long-term goals. The program serves to improve every student’s agility, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, cardiovascular health and general wellness.
Furthermore we hold two weekend drop-in programs. Saturday’s program provides an additional squash training session and round robin, while Sunday’s session is focused solely on tutoring. A SAT tutoring session is now offered during the Sunday drop-in for those interested in pursing post-secondary education in the United States.
Outside of our core weekly programming, students participate in local field trips, cultural events and compete on a regular basis in the Squash Ontario tournament circuit.
Why It's Important
We pride ourselves on the impact UST’s program has on our student’s lives and the resultant impact on their community. Since our first year of operation we have increased our enrolment by six times, to over 100 students, while maintaining an above 90% attendance rate. Two of our students have received scholarships to Crescent private school in North York and we currently have 7 students enrolled in a SAT prep course.
Students at UST successfully meet their commitment to an overall improvement in academic performance, striving for a B or better average. Furthermore students each show a dramatic growth in their self-confidence, athleticism, a greater sense of community belonging and a healthy lifestyle. Their expectation, and our goal is that over 90% will go on to pursue post-secondary education. Comparatively, only 55% of the population, age 20-24, in the Jane-Finch corridor have attended college or university (City of Toronto Priority Neighbourhoods – Overview of Demographics and Community Service Jane – Finch #2).