It’s always good to try something new. With the power of a new skill comes confidence, pride and a desire to keep pushing forward to the next challenge. That’s why Kids on Point (KOP) supports school-age children through the racquet sport of squash. Sure winning a game on a squash court is fun, but the nonprofit’s real goal is to help young students win in the classroom.

Programs like these provide vital services to students and when the pandemic hit, KOP Executive Director Lauren Herterich immediately started thinking about how to continue working with students safely.

“We knew that virtual programs weren’t going to work and created new programming like Camp in a Box where bi-weekly we delivered backpacks with games and books, plus ideas and supplies for art and science projects,” says Herterich. “Subsequent kits included tools for creative play, experimentation, exercise and hygiene for kids to share with their families.”

After socially distancing for seven months, KOP, which is housed at the College of Charleston, resumed in-person programming in October 2020 with the guidance of CofC’s Student Health Services.

Kids participate in activities during a Kids on Point after school program at Johnson gym, College of Charleston.

Siblings Precious and Dominique play squash as part of the Kids on Point program housed in the Johnson & Silcox Gymnasium at the College of Charleston. (Photo by Mike Ledford)

Public health major Abby Velazquez has interned with KOP since her freshman year. She keeps coming back to work with the group because she can see she’s making a difference with the kids. In her role as a mentor, she provides academic support to a group of students and is a consistent presence in their lives.

“For me, working with Kids on Point is therapeutic,” says Velazquez. “It’s three hours a day and I have to be mentally invested and focused on the kids, which means I’m not worrying about my own issues.”

Founded in 2009 to engage students from under resourced neighborhoods by putting a squash racquet in their hands, KOP, in partnership with the College, shares and maintains a 5-court squash facility in the Johnson & Silcox Gymnasium, classroom space, engages about 70 CofC student-volunteers yearly as mentors and tutors, and facilitates high-quality research, course work, and afterschool and summer programming. Many of the children have never heard of squash until they step on the College’s recently renovated courts. The game is swift and the students catch on quickly. But learning how to play squash is only the beginning. The real goal is to offer academic support, life skills and enrichment opportunities.

Academic support and programs through KOP include:

  • After-school programming four days per week during the school year, where students are given healthy after-school meals and participate in dedicated homework completion and academic lessons
  • A six-week academic and enrichment summer program to bolster students’ reading and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills between school years
  • Year-round college and career counseling from certified college counselors for 8th-12th grade students
  • Enrichment field trips locally and around the country in order to expose students to new ideas, cultures and people
  • Six family outreach events per year to connect families with resources and information relevant to supporting their students’ success
  • Internships, shadowing opportunities and life skills development

The success of the program is evident in the faces and words of students and families.

“It has been such a great opportunity to partner with the College because it has enabled us to engage the kids in a different way,” says Herterich.