The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

D 49 embraces soccer for underprivileged

Every Monday evening during the summer break this year, the field at Evans International Elementary School in Falcon School District 49 became the site of a ìKick-Around,î hosted by the SeSSI (Southeast Springs Soccer Initiative).Dave Pratt, D 49 safety and security specialist, helped create the SeSSI program in 2014, along with Sarah Sherwin, coordinator for Senate Bill 94, which is a youth outreach initiative that provides alternatives to detention for youth offenders. Pratt is a former Colorado Springs Police Department officer who retired in July 2015, and then immediately went to work for D 49.When SeSSI started, Pratt said Soaring Eagles Park and Deerfield Hills Community Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, were the only parks that offered the program. ìOne night (for each park) per week for two hours, we brought soccer to the kids,î he said. ìWe set up goals, divided up into teams based on age and skill level, and gave away free cleats and shin guards.îThe first night, 10 kids showed up for the Kick-Around; and, by the end of the summer, more than 700 kids attended between the two parks, according to the SeSSI website. The program has since expanded to five days and four more parks, Pratt said. Additionally, SeSSI offers free weeklong camps during the day at each park, he said.Kids range from ages 3 to 18, and they do not need to have any prior exposure or experience with soccer. ìOur whole philosophy is built around the same ideal they use in Brazil, Italy and France, where you just show up to a field and play,î Pratt said. ìThe best way to teach soccer is to play soccer. The best players are the ones that played on the dirt fields with whatever they could kick.îThe website states that the programís mission is ìto bridge the poverty gap by breaking down barriers that restrict children in low-income households access to soccer.îMatt Stelmaszek, director of SeSSI, said, ìWe do not say, ëHey, we have free soccer but you have to come to Briargate,íî he said. ìWe are bringing the program to these parks that may be a bit more dangerous. The parks we go to are identified by violent crimes committed by youth and gang-related violence in the area.îPratt said a major goal of the program is to create a connection between the community and the local law enforcement officers. One way SeSSI has accomplished that goal is by providing the officers at the CSPD Sand Creek Division with a bag of soccer balls to hand out to kids in the community. ìWe challenged our officers to get out there and give them out,î he said. ìIt helps them connect with the community and helps the kids see that these cops are real people. It has been great for breaking down walls and building bridges.îThroughout the community, SeSSI has created partnerships with various businesses and organizations, including Centura Health, the El Paso County District Attorneyís Office, the EPC Sheriffís Department, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks Football Club (a professional soccer league), the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region and the Colorado Rush Soccer Club (based in Littleton, Colorado), Pratt said.D 49 is the first school district to support the program, Pratt said. The amount of support has been impressive, from offering up the field at Evans Elementary to purchasing goals for the kids to use during the Kick-Arounds, he said.With about 2,000 kids participating this past summer, Stelmaszek said it is clear there is a desire and a need for the program, from kids and parents as well. ìThe parents are always there, either playing or watching,î he said. ìIt is crazy how alive these parks come when we are out there.îAmber Dieckmann, a D 49 parent with two children who participate in the program, said her kids have been coming to the Evans Elementary Kick-Around events since they started at the beginning of the summer. ìThe kids just want to do it more and more,î she said. ìThey are always excited, and it really wears them out.îClaudia Rivera, a community member whose children attend Roosevelt Charter Academy in Colorado Springs School District 11, said her 11-year-old son no longer sits inside playing video games all day, thanks to SeSSI. ìHe really likes it,î she said. ìHe is not tired all day and has already lost five pounds. We would love to be able to do this all year.îCurrently, SeSSI is only offered during the summer months, but if enough resources can be attained, the option to continue the program through the school year and in other D 49 schools is a viable one, Stelmaszek said.

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers