SquashWise, an after school youth enrichment program that helps Baltimore students develop the mental and physical discipline to achieve academically through playing squash, has won the prestigious 2016 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award.
The annual award, administered by the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, provided SquashWise with $15,000 to add a new class of 20 "rookies" this school year and continue to support students from middle school through college.
The award, in its sixth year, is given to one organization per year and is named for the famous Turner Station resident Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells from a cancerous tumor were cultured to create the first human immortal cell line. The cell line, known as HeLa, has transformed modern medical science and is still being used for medical research.
The award recognizes community-based groups that partner with Hopkins to improve public health. Past recipients include: Pythias A. and Virginia I. Jones African-American Community Forum on Memory Loss, The Men and Families Center, Inc, Safe Street, Moveable Feast and Newborn Holistic Ministries
SquashWise was profiled in The Baltimore Sun last spring, when its first class of middle-school recruits graduated high school.
The organization has recruited city middle-school students for the last eight years and supported them through high school with intensive mentoring and tutoring combined with athletic and social opportunities through access to the historically exclusive sport of squash.
The program's goal is to have participants achieve a100 percent high-school graduation and college admission rate.
"SquashWise is a perfect example of how you can direct your passion—in this case, the sport of squash—to making a sustained, long-term impact on the lives of young people in Baltimore City," said Dr. Bob Blum, director of the Urban Health Institute.