Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

David Kay ’95

David Kay ’95, center, at a fundraising event with two students he works with through METROsquash. (Debra Tessier/Courtesy Metrosquash)

April 2, 2008:

Tutoring on and off the court

In the shadow of a Tyrannosaurus rex named Sue, world-ranked squash players squared off last fall on a glass court inside Chicago’s Field Museum as public school students looked on. The goal of the event, organized by Princeton alumni, was to raise money to expand METROsquash, a nonprofit organization run by David Kay ’95 that helps low-income students boost their academic achievement by getting them hooked on squash.

Modeled after a Boston-based program, METROsquash was born in 2005 with help from Chicago’s founding board chairwoman Jacqueline Moss ’93 and advisory board member Henry Bienen, former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. Moss, who played squash at Princeton, saw METROsquash as a vehicle to broaden the horizons of youth in a city where about six out of every 100 high school freshmen will earn a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s, according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

METROsquash staff and volunteers tutor students three hours per week in math and reading and teach them how to play squash. On Saturdays, students compete in squash tournaments and participate in cultural activities and community projects. “Exposure is probably one of the best things we do as a program,” says Kay, a former All-American captain of the Princeton men’s squash team.

Last year, 90 percent of the two dozen sixth- and seventh-graders enrolled in the free program improved their grade-point averages, with many jumping from C and D averages to A and B averages, says Kay. METROsquash won’t let those with poor grades and bad attitudes compete or go on field trips.

The fundraiser held in the Field Museum came together with the help of museum president John McCarter ’60 and John Nimick ’81, a former squash pro whose event-promotion firm specializes in tournaments featuring portable, glass-walled courts. The event raised $150,000 for METROsquash, which will allow the organization to work with its current 40 students through high school and eventually expand to serve 200 kids. P

By Johnathon E. Briggs

Johnathon E. Briggs is a freelance writer based in Chicago.