North Shore’s Jackie Moss grew up playing squash, an activity that opened opportunities for her to travel and see the country, meet a wide diversity of people, attend an Ivy League school, and eventually become captain of her squash team at Princeton.
It was those experiences as a youth that she wanted to share with others and motivated her to co-found MetroSquash in 2005, an urban development program on Chicago’s South Side that uses squash training for underserved youth to help build character and self-confidence.
“I never thought a sport would be a defining part of my life, but it has been,” Moss says.
The power of community partnerships
Moss had witnessed first-hand the group’s impact on Chicago youth and she knew that William Blair, founded in Chicago 83 years ago on a mission to build up local enterprise, would be a meaningful partner both to fund programs and draw on staff volunteers to mentor youth.
“The students are aspiring to more than what is in their community, and William Blair has a long tradition of investing in local causes to support youth,” says Moss, who also has earned an MBA from Northwestern. “It’s a perfect fit for them both.”
MetroSquash, along with health data mapper MAPSCorps, was eventually selected from more than 40 area nonprofits nominated by William Blair employees. Each received a grant of $200,000 to use over two years to expand their work.
MetroSquash, whose after-school program offers training in the sport as well as academic and social mentoring, is using its grant to offer college and career-ready support for older youth. This initiative builds upon MetroSquash’s existing middle and high school programs now serving 400 students a year.
Summer interns make an impact
The group’s “college-to-careers” initiative included launching a national internship program last summer where 41 college students participated and gained exposure as interns to companies across the United States — from Apple in California to ABC in New York.
William Blair mentored four of the interns — the students’ first experience in a professional office environment. William Blair colleagues worked with the interns who completed research studies, updated databases, analyzed data, and pursued other projects that expanded their skills and confidence.
Gabriel Burton, who grew up in Englewood and joined MetroSquash as a 7th grader, graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bates College in Maine, where he played on the men’s squash team. This past summer he worked with William Blair’s investment management marketing team, using his math skills to analyze data, create graphics, and research social media.
“I made a lot of great connections and the marketing department taught me there were many different avenues of how I could apply my finance background in the work force,” Burton says.
Moss recalls the interns’ last day at William Blair, relishing how William Blair employees had gotten so involved with the students and the relationships that had been formed.
“Those are life transforming experiences for us all,” says Moss. “It’s all about trying to get kids out and get new experiences, helping them be the best they can be. But having the kids here also changes the way we look at our community and opens our minds to new people, new situations.”