Blair Corbin '11 has recently begun mentoring a New York City fifth grade student through the Bronx and Brooklyn, NY-based nonprofit CitySquash. Corbin, who was a member of the Men's Squash Team at Wesleyan University following graduation from St. Anne's-Belfield School, heard about the opportunity from his older brother, Brad, who also served as a City Squash mentor a decade earlier.
"At first, I did not know what to expect," said Corbin. "I went with my older brother to a few weekend practices to volunteer to help run clinics with the kids. We would run drills, help work on their fitness, and even give them private lessons sometimes. I was struck by how dedicated these kids were to improving not only their squash skills but also more general social skills. For instance, every time my brother and I would come to a weekend practice the children would come up, say hello and introduce themselves, shake our hands, and look us in the eyes while doing so. This small yet very important act was made even more impressive by the fact children as young at fifth grade were coming up to my brother and I, who were in our mid- to late-twenties. We were both struck by the intelligence and confidence of the children. These types of social skills are constantly reinforced by the CitySquash instructors."
Serving 230 participants in New York City, CitySquash provides not only squash instruction and practice but also tutoring, mentoring, community service opportunities, travel, high school placement, college prep, career services, and more to students beginning as young as third grade. The selection process is competitive, with approximately eight students vying for each open spot. Students in third and sixth grade pass through several months of academic testing, teacher meetings, squash instruction, and student interviews in order for the organization to make decisions based on which individuals it believes will be able to make the most of the offered experiences.
Prior to committing to a two-year mentorship, Corbin volunteered with CitySquash twice a month over the course of two years. In deciding to move into the more formal role of a mentor, he remembered one teacher in particular.
"Mr. Evans, who I believe he is no longer teaching at the School, was very jovial," he remembered. "He would greet his class by walking into the room and pronouncing out loud 'Welcome, nobles!' Every student knew Mr. Evans had a tremendous amount of life experience and an intelligence that was almost unmatched. He was also very approachable and I always felt I could go to him for advice about anything. I very much try to mirror the type of teacher-to-student relationship Mr. Evans created for me to my own mentor role at CitySquash."
However, Corbin credits the culture of St. Anne's-Belfield School and the entire faculty for most shaping his own goals as a mentor.
"The relationship between teachers and students at the School is truly unique," he said. "Teachers are friendly and easy to talk to, and as a student you know they have a tremendous amount of experience and they are willing to help students in any way they can. As I began my mentorship, I drew parallels to my teacher-student relationships; trying to balance a friendly, welcoming relationship yet respectful and educational at the same time. I believe it is vital to have some type of mentor or teacher you trust, look up to, and connect with to help you succeed in life."
Photograph of Corbin with mentee Rafael Ruiz courtesy of Blair Corbin.