WESA Scholars attend Feather Rackets AYA Junior Bronze in sunny San Diego, win matches, and visit the zoo.

Written by Scott Sparrow

We knew, on the plane ride back to Seattle, that our trip to San Diego for the Access Youth Academy (AYA) Junior Bronze was a success. In the three seats directly in front of Ms. Kate and myself sat three WESA scholars, exhausted from tournament play with sun-kissed skin from our visit to the San Diego Zoo. They were passed out, sleeping the kind of deep, peaceful sleep reserved for those who have worked hard and played hard, for those who have expended all their energies in pursuit of excellence and fun. Of course, this made for a trying walk through Seatac airport back to the van, but the heavy luggage and heavy legs paled in comparison to the moments of excitement, anticipation, and laughter that accompanied us throughout.


We recently returned from participating in AYA’s annual junior squash tournament, which took place over Easter weekend. AYA is, like us, an urban squash program that was founded in 2006 and has subsequently grown impressively. They were gracious and accommodating hosts and stand as a model for our own future (they are even currently building their own squash center!). I would like to offer a hearty thanks to AYA, and Coach Dave in particular, for what turned out to be a weekend of exciting firsts for WESA.

This trip was the program’s first by plane to a squash tournament. Our three tournament players were Bryan Reyes Melgarejo, Julie Ordos, and Dean Collins. Each scholar was invited based on the combination of their squash ability and competitive spirit, model behavior, and outstanding attendance. As it turns out, they also all happened to be more than accomplished travelers!


We were met in San Diego by a lovely sun, one that had been hiding from us in Seattle for a bit (difficult to believe, I know). With some time to spare before our first match, Ms. Kate, Bryan, Julie, and I grabbed a bite for lunch. Dean, on the other hand, grabbed quite a bit more.


After settling into our hotel we experienced another program first. In her first match of the tournament, Julie persevered through nervousness (it was her first official competitive match!) and, despite losing the first game, bounced back to win in 5 games (11-13, 11-4, 11-3, 9-11, 11-1). Not only was it Julie’s first competitive match and first win, it was also the program’s first match victory outside the state of Washington!


The boys also had a successful tournament outing. Bryan won two out of his first three matches, which earned him a place in the Consolation final--the first Consolation final and the highest individual finish in program history!


Although Dean did not win any matches, he had the toughest draw of the group. This is Dean’s first year with WESA (in fact, he’s still in his first 6 months of squash) and he’s only 9, but because of tournament structure, he had to play in the Boys U13 division. So, Dean was playing boys that were 2-3 years older than him. Nevertheless, Dean maintained his competitive edge throughout and continued to earn praise from spectators impressed with his ability.


The final tournament matches on Sunday ended early, so we managed, through will power and some insider help, to explore the well-known San Diego Zoo.


We saw lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!); we saw baboons and gorillas, an abundance of birds, sleepy koalas (much like our group on the trip back), and hungry elephants. We saw so many majestic creatures, and even got to be some too.


Despite sore and tired bodies, Bryan, Julie, and Dean were troopers, pushing on until we saw around half of the Zoo (it’s a really big zoo!) and it was time to return home.

The program is so proud of the performance of these three in San Diego and Ms. Kate and I are grateful to have had the chance to witness their success first-hand. We are hoping to make these excursions (and match victories) more regular. It was a massive success. Julie even told us that she enjoyed herself so much she didn’t miss her phone (it “was actually quite nice”). High praise indeed!

WESA Scholars Become Doctors for A Day

Doctors For A Day

WESA Scholars try their hand at suturing, intubations, and physical exams under the supervision of UW Medical school students and residents.

After a sleepy wake up on our first Saturday morning of the season (an hour and a half earlier than practice normally starts), WESA students gathered at the Meredith Mathews East Madison Branch of the YMCA to experience being a doctor for a day. This event is put on by a student group from the University of Washington Medical School who is “dedicated to increasing the numbers of people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the healthcare field.”

Our students began the day by suturing wounds (luckily for our new doctors, these were only wounds in the skin of banana). After being introduced to their instruments, students were instructed on how to properly suture a wound, one stitch at a time. Some patients fared better than others, but all (…nearly all) ended up in a better condition than they started in.

Our students then went on to learn about conducting patient interviews as well as performing physical exams. They took each others’ blood pressure and checked their teammates reflexes and cranial nerve health.

And shockingly, there is still more! Students were in the van by 8am on Saturday, giving them a full day to try out their white coat skills. Students were introduced to pathology and had the opportunity to see a number of human organs, some that were healthy and others that were nearly unrecognizable due to varying illnesses. They looked at kidneys, livers, brains, hearts, and more! They donned latex gloves and were able to handle these organs while learning about them from experts in the field. They learned about the importance of respecting organs that belonged to someone’s family member or loved one.

And finally, students put their skills to use by intubating dummies. In order to ensure the tube was placed correctly, students used a manual ventilator to get air to the lungs. When they could see the lungs inflating and deflating, they knew it had been a successful procedure.

Despite the initial sleep zombies who filled the van, we were all smiles leaving this event on Saturday. One student even commented that it was “lit”- high praise coming from a high school student! Thank you to the University of Washington and its dedicated medical students and residents for making this possible.


SUS Inaugural Golf Event

Two weeks ago, we hosted our first ever golf event. As when doing anything for the first time, it was a learning process for us and we feel incredibly grateful to all of our sponsors, participants and volunteers for making this inaugural event a success! Not only did we have a great time with everyone who attended, but we raised over $10,000 for our scholars. Of this money raised, $2,950 went directly to our Van Replacement Fund (continued here), which was started by a $10,000 grant from Movement Mortgage of which we were fortunate enough to be the recipients. It is events such as this one that allow us to continue to provide free individualized academic tutoring, intensive squash instruction and service learning opportunities to our scholars. We have our first class of freshmen in the program this year and are also looking to grow by nearly 20%. The funds raised at SUS events throughout the year are those that continue to allow us to grow. Our growth means more opportunities for a greater number of students in the Seattle area, and for that we thank you!

We are excited to see everyone back again next year, with a friend, co-worker or two!

We would also like to thank our Corporate Sponsor, Servco Pacific Insurance for their support. And our Hole Sponsors who helped to make this inaugural event a great one!


2017 Q2 Newsletter - Graduation, King 5, & Watching the Best in the World

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We had an exciting 2nd Quarter at SUS this year, including graduations, a PSA tournament and an appearance on King 5 Evening! We also hired our Program Manager and squash coach, Phil Lydeard! Phil brings a wonderful energy to SUS and years of experience working with kids on the court. Read more about Phil and the other happenings of our 2nd quarter here.

S.U.S. In the News!

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Seattle Urban Squash was featured twice this year in published articles. The first, which made Kate, our Executive Director and a proud Vassar alumna, very happy was in Vassar Stories. Vassar published an article showcasing the work that a number of its alumni are doing in urban squash programs across the country. 

The second article was written by Michael King with King 5 Evening after he did a short video about Seattle Urban Squash which aired during King 5's Evening segment.  Watch the video here!