Sev­eral dozen Boston Public School stu­dents are run­ning sprints, studying and peri­od­i­cally erupting in laughter. It’s “Fit­ness Friday” at Squash­Busters, an after-​​school urban youth devel­op­ment pro­gram at North­eastern University.

The seven-​​year, community-​​focused pro­gram cur­rently serves more than 100 stu­dents from the Gavin, Tim­ilty and Dear­born middle schools in South Boston and Rox­bury, in addi­tion to those from nine Boston public high schools. Squash­Busters also pro­vides sup­port to 22 of the program’s alumni cur­rently attending prep schools and colleges.

The Squash­Busters schedule includes squash lessons, aca­d­emic tutoring, com­mu­nity ser­vice and cul­tural activ­i­ties and aims to teach stu­dents the impor­tance of integrity, con­cern for others, appre­ci­a­tion, respect and effort. Stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in local and national squash tour­na­ments, engage in com­mu­nity ser­vice projects with orga­ni­za­tions such as the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Boston Harbor Asso­ci­a­tion, and immerse them­selves in study abroad oppor­tu­ni­ties in coun­tries such as Brazil, Ghana and South Africa to help with human­i­tarian projects and develop an appre­ci­a­tion for other nations’ cultures.

Touted as the “first enrich­ment pro­gram of its kind in the United States,” it has been suc­cessful for those who com­plete the pro­gram: 100 per­cent of Squash­Busters par­tic­i­pants grad­uate from high school, according to Squash­Busters literature.

The effec­tive­ness of this pro­gram is directly related to our ability to build deep, long-​​lasting rela­tion­ships with our stu­dents and fam­i­lies,” said Teresa Soares-​​Pena, the exec­u­tive director of SquashBusters.

I love the familial sense I get at SquashBusters,”added Ronald German, a high school senior who has par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram since eighth grade and will attend Hamilton Col­lege in the fall. “It’s almost like a second home.”

With the help of more than 100 vol­un­teers, some of them North­eastern stu­dents, Squash­Busters staff pro­vides classes and activ­i­ties that rein­force and go beyond formal instruc­tion. For example, stu­dents recently com­pleted a class that included a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts.

Dr. Car­roll Blake, prin­cipal of the Dear­born Middle School and a North­eastern alumnus, said that his teachers work in con­junc­tion with Squash­Busters staff to mon­itor stu­dents’ progress in school and plan sup­port as needed.

Through par­tic­i­pa­tion inthe pro­gram, Blake said his stu­dents learn that “any­thing is attainable…students find that there’s not a chal­lenge that can’t be accom­plished,” he said.

Squash­Busters grew out of squash cham­pion and pro­gram founder Greg Zaff’s pas­sion for public ser­vice and his desire to “make a life-​​changing impact on Boston kids,” he said. Zaff is now exec­u­tive director of the National Urban Squash and Edu­ca­tion Association.

Since finding a home at North­eastern in 2003, Squash­Busters, which has a 100-​​year lease on the prop­erty on Columbus Avenue in Rox­bury Crossing, has served as a model for other urban squash pro­grams in Harlem, the Bronx, New Haven, Philadel­phia, San Diego, Chicago, Bal­ti­more and Denver.

Without Northeastern’s interest in housing the youth center, Zaff said the others would not exist. “I can’t begin to say how appre­cia­tive I am of North­eastern,” he said. “Squash­Busters is a tes­ta­ment to how com­mitted the Uni­ver­sity is to the com­mu­nity, to part­ner­ships and to giving back. They should be com­mended and then some.”

Michael Dukakis, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and a member of the Squash­Busters’ Board of Advi­sors, said that the suc­cess of the pro­gram is a tribute to Zaff’s “vision and tenacity.” It pro­vides both an ath­letic and aca­d­emic oppor­tu­nity many inner-​​city stu­dents might not oth­er­wise have received, he said.

Stu­dents get deeply and actively involved in a sport at which they excel and explore new edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties, which makes a huge dif­fer­ence in their lives,” he said.