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Kids Win With Soccer Kick Around
Kids from the Evans International Elementary School neighborhood scored big by learning the basics of soccer at a “kick around” hosted by the Southeast Springs Soccer Initiative at the school June 19. The Southeast Springs Soccer Initiative (SeSSI) engages at-risk youth and families through soccer by bringing together law enforcement and community partners to build positive relationships.
Kids of all ages and local police officers were on location for a night of friendly soccer. “It’s fun and out of the ordinary for a typical day,” said Bernie Banuelos, community relations, Colorado Springs Police Department. “Instead of kids constantly seeing us in uniform, they can see we are just like them when we play with them.”
SeSSI uses soccer as a gang prevention and intervention tool to reach at-risk youth. Volunteer soccer coaches offer free summer trainings, year-round clinics, pick-up games and tournaments in multiple parks throughout the Southeast Colorado Springs community.
The first kick around occurred in summer 2014 with ten kids. By the end of the summer, more than 700 kids at two parks played soccer with coaches, law enforcement officers and their own neighbors. This year the program has expanded to six parks with a goal of serving more than 2,000 kids. Children participating in the program have received cleats, game snacks and soccer balls.
District 49 is getting in on the action by hosting kick arounds at EIES. “I'm proud of the partnership with our community and grateful for the leadership of our local agencies,” said Peter Hilts, chief education officer, who was at the kick around to warm up with the kids.
However, it’s not just administrators who are supporting and cheering on the program. Joel Walker, 18, recent Vista Ridge High School graduate and soccer player for the school, participated and offered valuable advice for the kids. “Soccer is more than just a game. It allows you to develop as a young individual,” said Joel. “It teaches you to do what’s right when no one is watching. That’s integrity.” Joel will be playing NCAA Division I Soccer next year at Oregon State University on scholarship.
District 49 parents have appreciation for the program. Mike Jensen’s son, Austin, has been playing in the program for two years. “It’s about getting out and getting exercise, and learning to remember team spirit,” said Mike. His son is an equal fan. “I hope to learn to kick farther, but my favorite is being goalie,” shared Austin, 7, first grader at Evans International Elementary School.
You can support SeSSI by donating snacks, cleats, bottled water, size 3 & 4 soccer balls, shin guards and other gently-used soccer apparel. For details, please visit www.sessi.org.
The kick arounds will take place every Monday at EIES from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. through July 31. “Kids are going to walk out of here winning in many, many ways,” said David Pratt, District 49 safety and security specialist, and SESSI coach.
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