New York City is one of the world’s most diverse cities, yet many young people feel they don’t have the opportunity to engage with others outside of their own communities. To tackle this, Young Leader and City In The Community assistant coach, Chelsea Quito joined other Young Leaders in New York City to create Soccer Bloc.
Soccer Bloc creates safe spaces to play across the city and provides access to after-school and summer street soccer programs and festivals. These programs connect children and young people from different communities and celebrate the diversity for which New York City is famous.
Here’s Chelsea’s story…
Before I joined the Youth Leadership Council, I used to volunteer at my old soccer club. From there, I tried to get more involved with volunteering. I like to volunteer, I love soccer. It’s something I’d rather do with my time. With Youth Leadership Council, we wanted to created a program that would be both educational and fun so that’s why we created Soccer Bloc, a social impact awareness program with basic soccer fundamentals.
Cityzens Giving allows us to target more children and give more people the opportunity to get involved in Soccer Bloc. It’s not so much about having the money to get the best nets or equipment. All we need is a soccer ball. With this donation, we can reach more schools, hire more staff, and bring Soccer Bloc to even more locations.
When we first started Soccer Bloc, it was tough to build that relationship and gain that trust with the kids. However, once you give these kids attention, respect, and you allow them to have fun with the program, you see them go from not listening or wanting to participate to actually being excited to come to Soccer Bloc. Some parents would stay for the entire program and watch their kids participate. At the end, they would be so grateful because it was free and because they saw their child having a lot of fun. When the parents ask us to come back, it’s rewarding because it’s not just the kids that enjoy the program, it’s also the parents that enjoy it for their children.
The children’s happiness is what keeps me coming back. Being able to provide them with that happiness makes me happy. After one program, a boy came up and gave all of the coaches a letter thanking us for Soccer Bloc. You never realize how much of an effect you have on these kids until you see it or someone tells you. Something like a letter might not seem like a big deal, but that boy the time to write that so that shows that this program means something to him. Things like that keep me going. The fact that I’m 18 years old and I’m working with people that are close to my age and we’re all making a difference, it inspires the younger kids. You don’t have to be a certain age to make a difference, you just have to have passion and be willing to give your time.
The best part of all of this is meeting a bunch of people that have the same goal in mind, which is to help other people. The people that I work with have become my very close friends because we all have the same passion of using soccer as a tool to help other people. I wish everyone had the chance to experience what I have through the Youth Leadership Council because it makes you grow and allows you realize that one person can make a change. You don’t need all of this money or all of these tools. If you’re passionate about something and really give it your all, that’s what it’s all about.