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

Bash 2018 Keynote Speech

The below speech was delivered by CitySquash team member Andreina Benedith at the 2018 Bash at the University Club in New York City. Andrew has been a CitySquash team member since 2007.


Thank you, Giselle for that wonderful welcome and thank you James for being such a supportive little brother. I look forward to watching you graduate from college in the not too distant future. And thanks to all of you for being here tonight and for the opportunity to share my story.

In preparing to write this speech, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my journey and especially on where I started out in life. For as long as I can remember, my parents have struggled financially. So did the parents of almost everyone I knew growing up. And yet so many of our parents worked multiple jobs and long hours. My parents struggled because of their immigration status, because of their education level, and because everything they earned was used to support my brothers and me. By the time I started CitySquash in fifth grade, I had seen a huge amount of suffering and sadness in my neighborhood. And I thought that was just how life was for everyone. I’d seen friends taken from their parents and put into foster care. I’d seen violence against women and incredible racism.

For many of you, homelessness and unemployment and hunger and high school dropouts and deportation and over-crowded schools are statistics you read about. For me, they were my life. But from a young age, I was determined not to become one of those stats. I was determined to seek out every possible opportunity to help put me on a path to financial independence. That remains my goal, but as I’ve gotten older, my hope is also that I’ll be able to one day support my parents. As you can imagine, my college graduation earlier this month was an incredible moment of pride.

I attribute my success to hard work every single day. As well as to the people in my life that helped to guide me. The first group I want to talk about is CitySquash. I’ve always liked to try new things and I’ve always loved sports. It was through CitySquash that I realized that there were people living only a few miles away from me that had it so much easier than I did. It was a harsh reality of the world that CitySquash forced me to learn. But simultaneously, they gave me the tools to get myself on a strong educational path. CitySquash gave me a group of people from a background like mine that could support me and talk with me as I worked my way through the complexities of all the information I now had about race and class. CitySquash allowed me to dream concretely, and that was an important first step for me. CitySquash was also a place for me to go every day. I believe children are a product of their environment and spending time with the students and staff at CitySquash was very good for me. I was matched with an amazing mentor, Lauren, who has been a consistent source of support for the past 12 years and who even made the trip to Lancaster a few weeks ago for my F&M graduation. She has been encouraging me to apply to Business School in the future, and I actually think I might!

CitySquash stresses the importance of having good character, which I agree is more important than anything else. The program showed me the true meaning of diligence, passion, and consistency. To me, that’s the combo you need for success. I’ve applied that personal philosophy to everything that I do. Diligence, Passion, Consistency. I believe it’s why I became one of the top-25 squash players in my age group in the country. I believe it’s why I was a 6-time Urban National Champion, why I played #1 on the varsity squash team at The Brooks School for four years, even during periods of doubt and times of feeling like an outsider. It’s why I was recruited to the team at Franklin & Marshall, and it’s why I’ve been able to travel the world playing squash and why I’ve done well in school. Diligence, Passion, Consistency.

The second group of people I’m grateful to is my family. My parents immigrated here from Honduras, and as I said earlier, it hasn’t been easy for them. Living in the Bronx in poverty can suck the heart and soul out of many people. There is so much to worry about all the time. I’ve seen many parents keep their children close to them out of fear. And I understand that instinct, but my parents have pushed me to soar. They encouraged me to join CitySquash, they supported my application to Brooks, a school where hardly anyone looked like us and in a state where neither of them had ever been. They supported my applications to colleges all across the country. Walking across the stage at my college graduation, I couldn’t help but think that I am a first-generation college graduate and that I will not be the last. Life has been a struggle for them, but they taught me persistence. They taught me to work hard and always be hopeful. They taught me to resist the easy way out, to resist admitting defeat. They taught me to persist in the face of challenges. I have learned so much from these loving, brave, ambitious people. More than what I’ve learned from any school I’ve attended, and I’ve attended some pretty good schools!

People talk about America as a land of opportunity, a land of promise. But that reputation often disappoints people when they arrive here with limited resources. So, thank you to all of you for supporting CitySquash, this program that supports all of us as we navigate the good that America has to offer young people who work hard and live well. CitySquash changes lives and families and I could not be more grateful for all it has done for me and mine. Thank you.


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