City Squash
Enabling New York City youth to fulfill their academic,
athletic and personal potential.

Bash 2015 Keynote Speech


The below speech was delivered by CitySquash team member Chris Fernandez at the 2015 Bash at the University Club in New York City. Chris has been a CitySquash team member since 2004, and this past spring he became the first in his family to earn a college degree when he graduated from St. Lawrence University. In June, Chris will return to CitySquash to become the organization’s Director of Squash. 




May 28, 2015


“Thank you so much for being here tonight. It is an honor to share my journey with all of you.


I was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the Bronx with my parents when I was nine. My mother worked in a salon and then a laundromat, where she has worked for the last ten years, and my father worked as a taxi driver, all to give my brother and me the opportunity to get an American education, which they believed would give us a better life. Like most Dominican kids I know, I was obsessed with baseball and dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues. For this reason, eleven years ago, when Tim Wyant came to my classroom to present to us about CitySquash, I hardly listened and sat in the back passing notes to the girl I thought was pretty. I had no intention of going to the tryout, mostly because I thought squash would get in the way of my commitment to baseball, but around 8:35am that following Saturday morning, there was a loud banging on my door. It was my best friend Argelis, waking me up and forcing me to come along with him to CitySquash tryouts. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that fateful knock on my apartment door.


Through the middle school years, CitySquash taught me to play squash, which I fell in love with, but more importantly, the program taught me to value learning. Before CitySquash, I didn’t always take school seriously—you remember those notes I was passing during Tim’s presentation! Initially, I focused in school just so that I wouldn’t lose the privilege of playing squash, but eventually I came to actually enjoy academics and I was determined to get into a top high school and college.  Thanks to CitySquash, I became fully committed to fulfilling the dream—the American Dream—that my parents had for me. I don’t think I fully understood what they were talking about until CitySquash opened my eyes to a larger world than the one I had known.  Once I saw all that was out there, my dreams for myself were as big as my parents’ dreams for me.


With help from CitySquash, I earned the opportunity to attend The Canterbury School followed by St. Lawrence University. I graduated a few weeks ago and am now the first member of my family to have a college degree. Playing on the St. Lawrence squash team was one of the best experiences of my life. I was lucky enough to have three other CitySquashers on my team over the years, and I count King, Seetreoon, and Alija as lifelong friends. They have provided me with huge amounts of support and guidance. This year, I captained our team to the finals of the national championship. It’s hard for me to admit, but somewhere between sixth grade and the end of high school, my dream of being a New York Yankee changed into a dream of winning a collegiate national championship in squash. During the introductions, I was moved looking out through the glass walls at the hundreds of people who were there to watch. I was so glad to see Terence and so grateful that he had been able to bring my family so they could see what a big deal the day was. With them in the crowd, I played every point like it was my last. I competed with my heart full of love and thanks.


My team and I came up short, but I wouldn’t change the journey or the experience for anything in the world. When I look back, it feels almost like CitySquash could predict the future. They had a vision of me that I had not ever considered, though I do believe it was one my parents had seen all along. CitySquash believed in my abilities and pushed me to work harder than I thought was possible. They never saw the color of my skin, how much money my parents earned, or the neighborhood I was growing up in as barriers to my success. For this, more than anything else, I am eternally grateful. To CitySquash, and to all of you here tonight who believe in its mission, I thank you.


A few weeks before I graduated from St. Lawrence I had the chance to speak on the phone to Argelis, my best friend from middle school. The one who first dragged me to CitySquash tryouts. Argelis did not make the CitySquash team—but he is doing well. Even though he didn’t finish college, he holds a job as an airplane mechanic in New Jersey. Still, in talking to him, I could not help but think how different my life would have been had he not knocked on my door, or had I not made the CitySquash team. For the first time, I thanked Argelis for changing my life.


It is with that sense of gratitude that I look forward to returning to CitySquash as a full-time Squash Director next month. One day, I hope to run an urban squash program of my own, but until then, I plan to knock on the doors of many other Bronx middle schoolers, and open their eyes to the bright futures that lie before them.   


Thank you.”


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