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Metro Squash teaches young urban youths the relatively unknown sport. (CBS)

Metro Squash teaches young urban youths the relatively unknown sport. (CBS)

Rob Johnson Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson is the weekday anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago evening...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Squash is a game that not many people know about.

And yet thanks to a University of Chicago doctor, it is helping broaden the athletic and academic horizons of many inner city kids.

Neuroscience professor Sam Sisodia wanted to share the game with kids, so he started Metro Squash out of the U of C squash courts and a campus church back in 2005.

Squash is similar to racquetball. Sisodia needed to find someone passionate about education and squash. He found his man David Kay in Rochester, N.Y., who now leads a staff of seven and more than 100 volunteers to mentor the kids.

“They love the equipment they get, they love the friends they make, and so it really builds on that,” Kay says. “And also the parents see the kids’ grades improving.”

Four years ago, Sherly Marie Francois was a sixth-grader at Kenwood Academy. She came to Metro Squash to do homework, using their classrooms and their computer labs, but ended up falling in love with the game.

Now, she’s a freshman at the prestigious Loomis Chaffee boarding school in Connecticut and is trying out for varsity squash.

“I never even thought about boarding school before I came here, and now I am going to one,” she says.

As for Keshawn Idris, now a senior at Hales Franciscan, he’s been coming here for seven years, one of the 85 kids they serve from five middle and 12 Chicago high schools.

Keshawn excels in squash now and believes this experience will allow him to compete academically and athletically at the college level next year at Denison University in Ohio.

Sisodia says that’s an example of how squash can help young people.

“Attitude is one, and then it becomes motivational,” he says. “It gives them that confidence. It’s all about building confidence in these kids, so that they see what’s out there. They never would have seen it before.”

Metro Squash is currently trying to raise $6 million so that it can move out of the church and move to a facility that will house its own classrooms, computer labs, and, yes, squash courts.

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