Soccer Without Borders Oakland is expanding its support for unaccompanied immigrant youth (UIY) in partnership with the Oakland Unified School District, which serves over 1,500 UIY students. Since 2013, SWB has collaborated with Alameda County Behavioral Health Services, La Familia, and the OUSD to make safe spaces and create opportunities that specifically meet the unique needs of UIY, who come to the United States with intensified barriers to educational, economic, and social opportunities.
In 2020, SWB Oakland served over 170 UIY students. This year, thanks to California’s Opportunity for Youth Grant, SWB will welcome more participants and offer additional programming for all UIY students. SWB Oakland is proud to continue to working alongside its partners to provide mentorship, recreational, and educational opportunities for UIY students in Oakland.
To expand this area of programming, SWB is pleased to welcome the newest member of its staff, Victor Rodriguez, who joins the team as a fellow to support unaccompanied immigrant youth. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the work, including a master’s degree in sports psychology from the University of Tennessee.
“I want to make sure that I provide a lot of myself and have open arms for the kids,” said Rodriguez. “I want to make sure that it’s a safe space for them.”
The number of unaccompanied youth arriving in Oakland and the United States as a whole has increased in recent years. Many of these young people have fled violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, among other countries, and are seeking safety and a chance to reach their full potential in the United States. OUSD has put new programs and measures in place to further support these young people, including creating specific newcomer programs at many of the schools where SWB runs programming.
Providing a safe space of community and support is vital to combatting the isolation that many UIY students experience. At a time when misconceptions about newcomers to the U.S., including unaccompanied immigrant youth, are pervasive, programs like this are crucial to helping these populations feel supported and valued. With Rodriguez leading UIY programming, SWB Oakland will continue to deepen and expand its support for these students.