It isn’t often that a high school senior gets to see his name in print in one of the top 10 newspapers in the US. Even more rare is the chance to see your essay about living in Baltimore during a time of community crisis and national attention, circulating to homes all over the country. But that is exactly what Soccer Without Borders participant Glory Aganze Barongozi got the chance to experience this Sunday, when his opinion piece I love the thought of leaving Baltimore, but it’s finally starting to feel like home was published in the Washington Post.
It isn’t unusual for national discourse around the issues of injustice, inequality of opportunity and education, poverty, and other challenges plaguing urban families and youth to fail to call attention to the perspectives of specific subgroups. With media consumption trending towards 140 characters or less, it seems there is less and less space in the spotlight for nuance. But it is as important as ever that multiple perspectives and experiences are taken into consideration when we come together to try to solve these most pressing challenges facing our society.
That is part of why we are so proud of our students’ action and engagement in Baltimore over the past month. Not only did we see Soccer Without Borders students engaging in marches for nonviolence and neighborhood clean ups in the wake of protests that turned violent last month in Baltimore, but we have also seen our students bringing a voice to newcomer youth, often overlooked in the sea of ‘disadvantaged’ youth in America.
Glory shares what it is like to move from country to country without ever finding a place where he can feel safe. He speaks of his time as a refugee in Uganda, yearning for the chance to resettle in America. But, as we have heard from many of the newcomer youth we work with, the American dream they imagine doesn’t always materialize. It is in this context that Soccer Without Borders works to provide newcomer youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success.
Through participating in Soccer Without Borders programs in Baltimore, youth like Glory have developed a sense of community. They play and grow in a safe space. They form lasting relationships with supportive and caring mentors and coaches who help them reach for their dreams. And many have finally found a place that feels like home!