Meet Beamer Freeman, a paraprofessional at P.S. 126 Jacob August Riis School in Manhattan.
Having a love for the beautiful sport, Beamer teaches after-school soccer programs at schools, parks, camps and anywhere he can help kids get more involved.
This is his story...
I was born in Liberia and I moved here when I was 7 or 8 years old. Where I grew up, we played with oranges. But we didn’t care, we just played. When I went to school, I got bullied but through soccer I was able to be free.
When I came back from college, I wanted to work with children. Now I’m a paraprofessional, but my future goal is to become a physical education teacher. I want to do something with sports. I’m not a typical office guy. I want to be out in the field running around with the kids. I still need to go back to school to become a PE teacher so that’s something that I’m working on. I’ve been here for two years, and it’s going well. I’m really liking it. I’m still involved with soccer. I try to put soccer in every activity. It’s not that big at the school, but I’m getting my kids involved. At recess we’ll play soccer, I’ll talk to them about the World Cup. The big goal is to work towards becoming a physical education teacher. I feel like that’s the only way I’ll get involved in soccer.
In this school, you have kids from different backgrounds. Some only speak Chinese, some only speak Spanish. I fit in that category when I first moved here. I was shy, and it was through soccer that I met my first friends and became more vocal and felt more comfortable. I feel like that’s what’s happening here. I’m not helping kids with math and science, but I’m helping them to be more active. The more they play, the more kids they meet. Now the kids I was not able to talk to because I don’t speak the same language, our relationship is getting better. Before they kept more to themselves, but now as we play more, I’m able to understand. Even if I don’t speak the language, I’m getting to know who they are, I’m getting to know their style. I feel like soccer is helping those kids whenever I interact with them. Whenever I interact with a kid, it’s always with a ball so that way I’m able to connect with them.
Anything that revolves around soccer, that’s where I know I’ll be happy, comfortable, and meeting new people. I love helping people, and I love helping kids. I like to go to camps, I like to go to random parks and just play pick-up games. I remember writing a journal to one of my teachers, telling him I have to play soccer and he bought me my first soccer ball in the fifth grade and he helped me find a team. People have always helped me out through soccer. It was through soccer that I was able to meet people, go to a really good high school and college. Ever since I was a kid, I worked with coaches and kids a little older than me that pulled me under their arm. Every day I remind myself, I have a responsibility. If I don’t give back, then there’s something wrong. When I moved here as a child, what I’m doing now I had people do for me so it’s like I’m giving back to the community. I’m having a great time, I like the kids. I have a huge passion for soccer, so if I can teach a kid how to play I’m going to do that. I’ve always just wanted to be around soccer for the rest of my life.
Some of these kids didn’t know soccer before, but now from these after-school programs they like it. It takes their mind off of the other things that they’re going through. It takes those problems that they deal with in school and at home. Being a part of their lives and giving them something they can look forward to, brings joy to their lives and makes them smile. I was searching for that smile when I first came to this country, and once I found soccer it gave me something to look forward to. I feel like it’s doing the same for these kids. They are happy, they are engaging more, and it’s something they look forward to. Tomorrow when I go, they’ll be ready to play. They know for sure that we have people that can look after them and guide them. Once there is guidance, it makes them want to come back. It makes them tell that friend “Hey, maybe you should come to after-school.”