Squash is only one activity on the agenda for more than 100 young men and women who will spend the Martin Luther King, Jr., hol­iday weekend at Northeastern.

Middle and high school stu­dents from nine cities across the country, including Boston, Bal­ti­more, the Bronx, Harlem, Denver, Philadel­phia, San Diego, Chicago and New Haven, will be in town for the 2010 Urban Squash Team Championships.

Some 125 stu­dents will pack the courts of the Badger & Rosen center, home to Squash­Busters, an after-​​school urban youth devel­op­ment pro­gram on the North­eastern campus. Roughly 160 stu­dents will com­pete at Harvard’s Murr Center.

The National Urban Squash and Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion (NUSEA), an orga­ni­za­tion that has led the cre­ation of urban squash pro­grams throughout the country, including Squash­Busters, will host the three-​​day event.

Over the course of the weekend, teams of young squash players will com­pete for top prize in dif­ferent age groups. They’ll also take tours of Northeastern’s campus and, in honor of Dr. King, read their pre-​​prepared essays on how they have over­come adversity.

For Squash­Busters founder and squash cham­pion Greg Zaff, the weekend’s slate of events aims to rein­force the youth program’s com­mit­ment to ath­letics, aca­d­e­mics and com­mu­nity ser­vice. Zaff is now the exec­u­tive director of NUSEA.

The whole mis­sion of the pro­gram is not to create squash players, but to create good cit­i­zens and kids who suc­ceed in life and in col­lege,” Zaff said. “The goal of the pro­gram is to use squash, school work and ser­vice to help stu­dents become suc­cessful and happy in life.”

NUSEA pur­sues those goals through activ­i­ties that include squash lessons and tour­na­ments, aca­d­emic tutoring, com­mu­nity ser­vice, cul­tural events and study oppor­tu­ni­ties in coun­tries such as Brazil, Ghana and South Africa —all intended to teach stu­dents the impor­tance of integrity, con­cern for others, appre­ci­a­tion, respect and effort.

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 grad­uate from high school; 93 per­cent earn a col­lege degree.

That’s what mat­ters the most,” Zaff added. “Grad­u­ating from col­lege is a fun­da­mental ingre­dient to suc­cess. Trying to give these kids the expe­ri­ence that helps them achieve their best is very impor­tant to us.”

Squash­Busters and other urban youth squash pro­grams around the country are helping to close the achieve­ment gap, according to Peter Roby, Northeastern’s ath­letic director and a member of the Squash­Busters’ Board of Directors.

I don’t think there’s any ques­tion that it’s been a great equal­izer,” he said. “It’s won­derful to see the kinds of oppor­tu­ni­ties stu­dents are being exposed to as a direct result of the program.”

Teresa Soares-​​Pena, the exec­u­tive director of Squash­Busters, credits the effec­tive­ness of the pro­gram less to squash instruc­tion and more to its ability to build deep, long-​​lasting rela­tion­ships with stu­dents and families.

Roughly half of the stu­dents smashing squash balls over the weekend will take a tour of Northeastern’s campus in order to get a feel for col­lege life. They’ll tour aca­d­emic build­ings, the Curry Stu­dent Center, the Marino Center, Snell Library and the John D. O’Bryant African-​​American Institute.

The tour lets the kids see what col­lege is all about and what school could look like in the future,” said Tricia Williamson, asso­ciate director of admis­sions. “They get excited about taking classes and living with their friends and if this is what helps plant the seeds for doing well in school, then that’s wonderful.”

To learn more about Squash­busters, visit: http://​www​.squash​busters​.org/