Connecting Pediatric Residents to the Community Through Capitol Squash

By: Martha Peregoy

When people hear about the sport squash, they typically think of players at boarding schools and at country clubs, not urban middle school students playing after school. However, there are a growing number of organizations that bring squash to urban students. One of these programs, Capitol Squash, is right here in Hartford.

Based out of the squash courts at Trinity College’s Ferris Athletic Center, Capitol Squash is a selective program for students from fourth through 12th grade. It was founded in 2014, so its first participants are now in eighth grade. Students from Hartford, who have typically never heard of squash or played on an organized sports team, attend the program two to three times a week. Each session is comprised of an hour of squash practice and an hour of academic tutoring, where students learn from pediatric residents. Throughout the year, students can participate in squash tournaments.

Capitol Squash supports the students even beyond academics and squash. “Anything that they need, we find or help them find someone that can do that,” said Meg Taylor, executive director of Capitol Squash. This has included social-emotional support, finding health care, sending students to summer camps, and helping with school placement. This is all done to help fulfill the program’s ultimate goal, which is for the students to attend college.

Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH, director of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center and volunteer for Capitol Squash, saw the potential for a partnership between the Pediatric Residency Program and Capitol Squash. Residents at the hospital must fulfill a community learning component, and Capitol Squash welcomes tutors and enrichment for their students.

Pediatric residents have volunteered with Capitol Squash since the start of the 2017-18 school year, serving as academic mentors and giving presentations to students on health topics. “They helped us learn more about our head, the skull, and sex ed,” said Julissa, an eighth grade student in the program, who added that the presentations “helped us be more informed.” Another student, seventh grader Malike, agreed, saying that the doctors “showed me how important my health is.”

The program, in turn, has helped the residents better serve their patients. Erin Goode, MD, a pediatric resident at Connecticut Children’s, commented that Capitol Squash, “is a cool thing to be able to tell [patients] that are looking for programs for after school.” She also notes, “I like that I’m not in the medical setting when I’m with these kids. It reminds me that kids are kids and not all kids are sick.”

The relationship is developing beyond the tutoring and presentations. Meg Taylor explained, “As we’ve gotten to know them better, they’ve gotten to know us better. They’ve been able to see where they can add value.” This has included making sure all of the students have primary care physicians and that students without them are still able to get physicals. Additionally, next year, the residents will help with lottery applications for the Hartford Public Schools and private school application essays.

It’s clear that the students and residents are both enjoying this partnership. The residents are adding to an already exceptional program that does so much for its participants. One mother has already noticed her daughter’s confidence and self-esteem improve because of Capitol Squash. She particularly loves how Capitol Squash and her child’s school communicate. “Other sports don’t do that,” she says.

Martha Peregoy is a guest author to our blog. She is a student at Trinity College who will graduate in 2021.

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