In one of the most diverse counties in America, Montgomery County, MD (http://www.mymcmedia.org/four-of-the-10-most-diverse-cities-are-in-montgomery-county/ )- recreational sports often serve as a unifying factor for many immigrant populations. Sports are a great draw for youth engagement in after-school programs, but at Albert Einstein High School, soccer is doing so much more. Capitalizing on the High Schooler’s common love for soccer, the YMCA RecZone staff organized a Spring Soccer Tournament. A total of 56 amateur ‘fútbolers’ participated in the 4-week tournament, many of them hailing from various Central American countries. At the conclusion of the tournament, a group of young people traveled to DC to see DC’s own professional soccer team, DC United! For many of the youth, it was their first trip into the nation’s capital.
The YMCA RecZone at Einstein is open to all youth in grades 9-12 at Einstein High School. This recreation-based initiative specifically targets those students who are ineligible to participate in after school sports due to poor or failing grades. Operating for over a decade, YMCA RecZone serves 640+ students annually and offers them lunchtime recreational activities Mon-Friday and an after-school program Tuesday-Thursday from 2:00 PM-5:00 PM.
The program annually uses soccer and basketball tournaments to engage students and help them to foster positive friendships with their classmates. With the increase of racist speech and incidents within our nation, it is even more important for the YMCA to provide opportunities through sports for young people to appreciate differences and make connections despite them.
The soccer tournament at the school also helped to solidify the trusting relationship that the youth have developed with the YMCA RecZone program’ staff, which helps keep the teens motivated to stay connected to the school environment and prevent them from engaging in high-risk behaviors.
Kaneisha Hall, Program Coordinator at YMCA RecZone says that she instructs her staff to, “stress the necessity for students to measure the choices they make outside of the Einstein program in support of their emotional and physical safety.”
To find out how you can support teens at Einstein high school navigate through the challenges of teen years and form healthy relationships, please contact Patti Bryce at, [email protected]