NEW YORK, NY – On April 2nd, South Bronx United organized the 2015 City Showcase Symposium to kickoff the City Showcase weekend that also included a youth soccer tournament on Randall’s Island. The event, held at Baruch College for a second year, filled an auditorium full of nearly 300 high school soccer players, parents, coaches, panel speakers and representatives from various New York area college admissions departments and soccer teams, and even New York City FC’s goalkeeper Ryan Meara. The symposium provided a platform for inner city students to gain exposure to higher education opportunities and the soccer recruitment process.
The evening began by giving students the opportunity to visit information tables staffed by college representatives providing important information on the admissions process, student life, and opportunity programs targeting typically student groups typically underrepresented in higher education. In attendance were representatives from Baruch College, John Jay College, Sarah Lawrence College, the City University of New York (CUNY) Opportunity Programs, CUNY Athletics, and Growth Through Sport, a sports psychology firm. Growth Through Sport, CUNY, and Baruch College served as sponsors for the event.
Students and parents also had the opportunity to network with several college soccer coaches, including Dan Solli from the Fordham University Women’s team, Mike Erdi of Villa College Men’s Team, Jorden Scott of Manhattan College Men’s team, and Ajani Clunie, Assistant Coach for John Jay College Women’s team.
CUNY Athletic Conference Executive Director Zak Ivkovic served as host for the evening’s presentation. He introduced Meara, who currently plays goalkeeper for New York City FC on loan from the Red Bulls. Meara received his Bachelor’s in Marketing from Fordham University where he was a four-year starter and conference Defensive Player of the Year. He gave a motivational speech on his soccer journey, sharing the trials and tribulations he encountered to become a professional athlete while emphasizing the need for all students to earn their college degree. Later in the evening Ivkovic emphasized that only 5.5% of high school players become NCAA intercollegiate athletes and just 1.7% of those go on to play professionally.
The college panel included a diverse group of speakers: Richard Alvarez, the University Director of Admissions for The City of New York; Jennifer Gayles, Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment at Sarah Lawrence College; Kyle Graves, Men’s soccer coach at Morrisville State; Casey Summers, Women’s head coach for John Jay College; and Mr. Scott of Manhattan College. The college panel was moderated by Scott Knight founder of andGo Sports, a firm that supports high school athletes through the college recruitment process. Panelists offered extensive information, touching on topics that included school and major selection, admission process, and financial support. All coaches spoke of the challenges students face playing college soccer at the different intercollegiate levels. Coaches never failed to stress the significance of doing well in college and earning a college degree is to the students.
Roberto Torralba was one of a few 8th graders present. “It was good information as I learned that it doesn’t mean necessarily mean that Division 1 schools are the best schools to apply to and there are a lot of other options. Since I’m entering 9th grade, it was good to get early information about the college process.”
The event underscored the importance and effectiveness in combining soccer with academics. South Bronx United goalkeeper Tony Villegas, 17, stated, “Being the first to go to college in my family is a very big deal; Soccer taught me discipline, taught me team work, helped me become the person who I am right now, and I never gave up and that is something soccer has a lot to do with.”
South Bronx students are looking forward to putting some of the panelists suggestion into practice in college. Says Jeffrey Cordova, also 17, “College will change my life, I’ll get a lot more of opportunities, and become a better person.”