When I first heard I had a chance to intern with South Bronx United, I thought it would be just an easy, fun job. I love kids, and I love soccer; what more did I need? I assumed my time here would be just laid back, teaching kids SAT math and dribbling through high school players. I was horribly mistaken.
As a native of Los Angeles, California, I always dreamed of coming to New York. When I was younger, my uncle would tell me stories of his exploits all around the world. He loved to travel and visited many faraway places, but the stories of the Big Apple always fascinated me. He told me of the fast-paced life, the pizza, the lights, the crazy drivers, the people that are always nice and angry at the same time. So, I decided to come here for university and currently attend Columbia University. When I told my uncle that I was in the city for school, he was happy for me, but told me that I needed to go somewhere else other than Manhattan, to places that aren’t so full of glitter, like the Bronx. Everything I had ever heard about the Bronx had been negative: murders, robberies, and gentrification. I had only been to the Bronx once before SBU, and that was only because I fell asleep on the 2 train.
SBU showed me the great side of the Bronx. On the third day of our training, we interns were sent on a scavenger hunt to discover the many amazing spots in the Bronx. In doing so, we witnessed great landmarks that are part of the Bronx’s history and the lives of the people that live there, visiting places like the old Yankee Stadium and learning about the Bavarian educator, Franz Sigel, who, after World War II, loved New York so much that he dedicated the rest of his life to teaching there. Learning about such inspiring people helped drive me to do the best I could teaching and coaching during my summer at SBU.
I was even happier to be a part of SBU when I first met the students. These kids have known each other for so long that they’ve become a close-knit family. They have their inside jokes, their shared embarrassing moments, their relationships. They’ve played together, fought with each other, and grown together. In a weird way, I felt like I belonged. As a Nigerian that had a bit of trouble learning English, I’ve always been a little self-conscious about the way I talk. At SBU, with students from all over the world, no one feels ostracized because they’re different. It’s an accepting, loving place that doesn’t let anyone feel left out. It unites everyone with soccer, the world game.