One of the three pillars of Soccer Without Borders’ holistic programming is Education. Tutoring, tech support, and helping students navigate the college application process have become even higher priorities during COVID-19, as access to in-school resources are limited. SWB supports participants to gain access to higher education which might otherwise be unattainable due to financial constraints, the complexity of the college application system, and often the challenges of being the first in their family to attend college.
Scholarships can be a critical part of the higher education puzzle for many SWB participants. This Fall, SWB Oakland is helping connect students to scholarship opportunities by supporting qualifying students to apply for Posse Foundation Scholarships. The Posse Foundation selects students who then receive full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner colleges and universities. The application process is rigorous and highly-selective, with only 10 students chosen per institution each year. In 2019 , Shiham, a long-time SWB Oakland participant, was awarded a Posse Scholarship to the University of Puget Sound.
Shiham was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was resettled to Oakland through the UNHCR refugee program with her family when she was 12 years old. Shiham started playing with SWB in seventh grade, and has been a core member of every team she's been a part of since. As a recent graduate, Posse scholarship winner, and all-star alumna who represents SWB in different events, Shiham continues to add so much to the program.
“I am so happy that after all the time and the work that it took to even go through the application process that it paid off,” Shiham says. “Being a Posse scholar and just seeing the other students in my group, they’re so talented and smart! And I’m one of them! It doesn’t seem real. I know just being at a place like Puget Sound will give me opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t get this Posse scholarship.”
This year, SWB Oakland has three participants in the final round of interviews for Posse Scholarships, an accomplishment in and of itself.
One of them is Henok, who came to the U.S. nearly two and a half years ago from Ethiopia. He’s been part of SWB since then, and now serves as a captain for his team. He’s known for holding down the middle of the field, his love of Will Smith, and his impeccable stick-shift driving skills.
“My family always wanted me to go to a four-year college and have high paying jobs, because they don’t want me to have a life like theirs,” Henok says. “I am going to college to have a better future for myself and my family.”
Another finalist is Mohamed, who serves as co-captain with Henok. Mohamed came to the U.S. three years ago from Yemen and has been playing with SWB for over two years. Throughout that time he has shown a desire to always get to know his teammates, learning Spanish and always emulating the SWB mantra, “We’re happy you’re here.”
“Getting to the final round for the University of Puget Sound is the biggest moment that made me so proud and happy to have such great people around that helped me get the scholarship. Getting to this point in the process has made my whole year,” Mohamed says.
This year’s final Posse Finalist is Fatimah. Fatimah was born in the United States before moving back to Senegal as an infant with her family. At 15, she returned to the USA with her sister and father to attend high school. She played soccer for the first time with SWB three years ago, and is known on the team for her infectious laugh, fun loving spirit, and pointed to as an example of how much growth new players can achieve when they Try Everything (her favorite SWB rule).
“It is very important to trust the process and step out of your comfort zone in this process and these two were my biggest challenges at the beginning of this,” says Fatimah. “When I found out that I was a finalist for the University of Puget Sound, I started realizing that I am actually doing it, and I did my best to overcome these challenges. I felt good and confident because knowing that I tried hard and did my best was motivating.”
Soccer Without Borders is committed to promoting equity by helping participants gain access to educational opportunities. For students whose career aspirations include a four-year college degree, a scholarship can unlock that pathway, creating a positive ripple for themselves, their families, and their communities.