Game Changer: Program Allows At-Risk Teens to Play Soccer Free (VIDEO)

It may look like just a game, but for students in Montgomery County’s Department of Recreation’s Soccer 4 Change Program, it’s so much more.

“We’re family and it helps me a lot with school and my life,” said Wilson, student at Gaithersburg High School.

For a second year in a row, the recreation department’s after school program is helping students like Wilson have the opportunity to play soccer free of charge.

“They’re taking care of their families, they’re babysitting their little brother and sister, or they’re even working to help pay the bills for their family,” Sara Swarr, recreation specialist, said. “Some of these families can’t even afford a meal at home.”

With help and funding from the Montgomery County Council, the recreation department partnered with Identity, Street Outreach Network and the City of Gaithersburg to identify students to participate in this unique program.

“It’s well known that every time you offer a positive experience for our young people to engage in a sport, it really leads into other positive outcomes,” Councilmember Nancy Navarro, said.

There are roughly 286 students from Clarksburg; Gaithersburg; John F. Kennedy; Montgomery Blair; Northwood; Seneca Valley; Springbrook;  Watkins Mill; and Wheaton High Schools participating in the Fall program.

In addition to practicing two days a week-students are required to participate in a community service project to be eligible to play.

“It doesn’t require to have perfect grades so there’s no boundaries,” said Jahayra,Watkins Mill High School student.  “They’re accepting and they’re open and willing to accept anyone who’s willing to play.”

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Mitti Hicks

About Mitti Hicks

Mitti Hicks is a multimedia journalist and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She is passionate about telling stories that impact our community and may be reached at and on Twitter @mittimegan.


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