On August 10th, South Bronx United completed the second year of its Summer Soccer Scholars program. This year, 71 students, who were entering the fifth through twelfth grades this Fall, enrolled in the program. Nearly all of the students participate in the SBU travel soccer program during the school year.
For four weeks, the scholars were in session from 9 am until 3:30 pm at the program site, the Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports on the Mott Haven High School Campus. Every Monday through Thursday, the scholars began the morning meeting with their mentors in small groups to discuss issues and tips around being a healthy and safe individual and athlete. The mentors were primarily current college students, who decided the best way to spend their summers would be to teach South Bronx youth. Mentors brought a wealth of experience coming from a diverse set of schools including University of California at Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Baruch College, Howard University, Vassar College, Washington University at St. Louis, Hamilton College, Ithaca College, State University of New York at Oswego, St. Francis College, Barnard College, and Hunter College.
For the rest of the morning, students took three one-hour classes on a range of topics with other students in their same grade. Classes included the History of Sport, Creative Writing, Media Studies and Analysis, and Speech and Debate. Rising high school juniors and seniors took SAT and College Prep. Thanks to South Bronx United’s partnership with the Inwood House, all students also took part a Making Proud Choices class which focused on sex education, family communication, and leadership skill building. The Inwood House has been providing services for 180 years and brought much appreciated expertise to the summer program. Middle school girls also had the special treat of participating in a weekly girls-focused reading group with Bard College professor, Jie Park.
On the last Wednesday, scholars also benefited from the expertise and advice of four professionals during Career Day. Students were visited by Sofia Sanchez, Marketing Director for the New York Cosmos; Daniel Beekman, Staff Reporter for the New York Daily News; Daniel Seidler, Executive Director at Westchester Square Physical Therapy; and Kyle Graves, Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Morrisville State College. Presenters spoke about how their own interests in soccer led to their current careers, the educational paths they pursued, and the perks and challenges of their daily roles. Paul Douglas Zickler, who holds a M.A. in Sports Management from San Diego State and previously worked for the National Hockey League, also visited to lead an interactive Career Exploration session using Lego Serious Play. Students used Legos to creatively express their life and career goals.
Afternoons brought outdoor soccer training in the intense summer heat. This was particularly taxing for our many youth who are observing Ramadan–the strict month of fasting on the Muslim calendar. Despite not being able to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, these youth still attended the program daily participating in both educational and athletic activities. Twice a week, scholars trained with their age group. Then, each Wednesday and Thursday brought the much anticipated SBU Summer Soccer Scholars World Cup. All summer youth, regardless of age or gender, divided into four teams to compete for the championship. Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and even Malta (team names were chosen by the players) held spirited matches. The Netherlands prevailed in a hard fought victory 2-0 over Malta in the finals.
Each Friday was filled with excitement as the program took fun field trips to the American Museum of Natural History, Bear Mountain State Park, Coney Island, and Six Flags Great Adventure. Trips were offered only to students with no unexcused absences for the week, and only students with perfect attendance for the entire program received free tickets to Six Flags. The trips were not only a rewarding and fun ending to the week. They also gave scholars the further chance to bond and to travel out of the Bronx, which for many was a unique opportunity.
Over the next two weeks, check back at sbUNITE! for some first-hand experiences this summer from SBU youth scholars and summer mentors.
South Bronx United would also like to give a special thanks goes out to those who help make the Summer Soccer Scholars program possible: all the summer staff who dedicated their time; individual, corporate, and foundation donors who continue to support SBU; the Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports; Blue Lizard sunscreen; and the Inwood House.