Unique after-school program at Hogg MS helps students excel on, off court

Students lead Welsh official on tour of Mission Squash  

Last year, as Heights High School sophomore Faustino Martinez struggled in his freshman biology class, little did he know that an after-school program centered around an obscure sport would propel him to success. 

Thanks to Mission Squash — a unique after-school program at Hogg Middle School that combines intense academic training, community service and participation in the elite racquet sport of squash — he passed his class with flying colors 

“For me, support is the most important part of the Mission Squash program,” Faustino said. “They helped me gain a true understanding of the subject, and that’s what really turned it around for me.” 

Faustino, along with Heights sophomore Gabby Herrera, met with the Welsh Minister for Education Kirsty Williams on Tuesday, who was in town with other Welsh government representatives to learn about new organizations like Mission Squash. The students took her on a guided tour of the program.   

Beginning in the sixth grade, Mission Squash scholars like Faustino and Gabby make a seven-year commitment to attend 200 hours of tutoring sessions and practices.  

During their time with the program, students receive regular guidance and support from mentors and are invited to attend squash tournaments and visit prestigious universities around the nation. Sixty students from Hogg Middle School as well as Energy, Heights, Lamar and East Early College high schools are enrolled in the program. According to Mission Squash, 95% of urban squash students graduate high school to pursue a college degree. 

“I love the whole academic program,” Gabby told a room full of Welsh dignitaries. “It has really helped me through my whole educational career, and it helps me prepare for college.” 

At the end of Tuesday’s tour, Williams laced up her neon-green squash shoes and received a lesson on one of Hogg’s six Mission Squash courts, which are the first in North America to be built inside a public school. During the court session, she and Mission Squash Executive Director Nick Sutcliffe spoke about the lasting impact that the program will have on its participants.  

“Our ultimate goal with our students is to help all of them obtain a college education,” Sutcliffe said. “Mission Squash is their second family and the support system that they need to be able to matriculate to and succeed in college.”