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The below speech was delivered by CitySquash team member Cris Margaret Frias at the 2016 Bash at the University Club in New York City. Cris Margaret has been a CitySquash team member since 2005, and this past spring she became the first in her family to earn a college degree when she graduated from Franklin & Marshall College.
June 2, 2016
“Good evening. Thank you all for being here tonight and thank you so much President Porterfield for making the trip here and for that amazing introduction. When I was at F&M, I truly appreciated how accessible you always made yourself to the students. Thank you for the ice cream breaks in your office. Thank you the concern you showed for my safety when you stopped by the Student Center on a night I was working late and asked how I was getting home. Thank you for your commitment to making the school a diverse and happy place. I’m proud to be a CitySquasher and I’m proud to be Diplomat!
Tonight, I want to tell you a story about opening doors.
The story begins with my brave mother who immigrated here from the Dominican Republic with my sister and me. I was five, my sister was a baby, and none of us spoke any English. My mother enrolled us in public school and told us to take advantage of every opportunity that came our way. So when in 6th grade, I was offered the chance to try out for CitySquash, I was so excited to do so, that I arrived a week early for tryouts! I cried the whole way home, but a few months later was jumping up and down screaming with my mom, celebrating my acceptance to the program.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and let me tell you, CitySquash helped create one heck of a village for me. Through the program, I met so many people who have touched my life—from Tim and Terence, to the rest of the staff, to my mentors Lisa and Jessica, to Mr. Platt, an F&M alum, who helped support me through college, to the many families who hosted me at tournaments and brought me along on their summer vacations, and of course to my teammates, many of whom have become lifelong friends—thank you for being there for me. Because of CitySquash, I am a graduate of The Loomis Chaffee School and Franklin and Marshall College.
At F&M, I played varsity squash for four years and loved having kids from CitySquash and other urban squash programs on my team. My coach Gavin Jones, who is here tonight, has been an important mentor for me and someone I know I’ll turn to for advice for the rest of my life. My professors taught me to think deeply, and not just to accept answers, but to ask questions.
During my college journey, CitySquash helped me to secure many different internships. I coached at urban squash programs in Baltimore and Cartagena, Colombia, I worked in marketing at FreshDirect, and interned at the DC office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Most of the interns hardly had the chance to interact with the senator, but thanks to our shared passion for squash. I spent an hour alone with her on court. I promised her I wouldn’t share the score of our match, but let’s just say to my squash coaches in the room, I made you proud! The CitySquash College Success Scholarships, which Terence talked about earlier, provided a stipend for that unpaid internship. For that, as well as the annual tuition assistance that was provided for me through the fund, I am grateful.
As you can tell, I am overwhelmed by gratitude. When I walked across the stage and became the first member of my family to graduate from college, it was because of you and, in a way, it was for all of you. I pledge to always give back to CitySquash, to Loomis, and to F&M for everything that those places have done for me. In fact, I recently started working at US Squash and am thrilled to be able to do something for a sport that has done so much for me.
So now—back to the doors. I promised you a story about doors opening. And you may think you’ve already heard it. Because yes, a lot of figurative doors were opened in the journey I just described. But I want to tell you now about some real live doors that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
After arriving in New York, my mother took a job as a taxi driver. It allowed her flexible hours when my sister and I were little. Often, she drove all night so that she could be there for us in the mornings. But after that, she took a job in housekeeping because the pay was more stable. She was a member of the staff of THIS club—the University Club. and for years, she entered through the staff doors, and worked and worked to provide my sisters and me with all that we needed.
Tonight, I walked into the University Club through the front doors. The entrances are only a few feet away from each other, but they are worlds—literally worlds—apart. And without CitySquash, we would never have been able to move from one world to the other. When you support CitySquash, you open doors. You open worlds. Thank you for changing my life and the life of my family.
Unfortunately, my mother could not be here tonight, but before I finish, I want to thank her here, in front of all of you. Thank you, Mami, for walking all those years through the back door to allow me to walk through the front. Gracias mami, por caminar por las puertas de atras para que yo un dia pudiera caminar por las puertas del frente. I promise her and I promise all of you that I will continue to work hard to make the most of the opportunities that you’ve helped to give me.