Key Extracurriculars: Soccer Without Borders
By Julia Jones
There are a lot of great parts about working at The Key, from learning to elevate voices, working with fast-paced companies, and telling new stories. There’s a sense of teamwork that goes into every single day here, something I’ve come to admire from a company leading with both head and heart in everything that it does. One part that has continued to make me proud is the support we receive to be passionate and authentic about what matters to us -- even outside of work. From fundraisers, to events, to mission-driven projects, The Key provides a supportive environment to contribute to the larger community and ecosystems that sustain us.
For me, this looks like volunteering my time with a youth and community development organization in Oakland called Soccer Without Borders on Friday afternoons.
After leading gap year programs and working with high schoolers in a previous job, I missed certain aspects of teaching students and providing mentorship. I came to know and love Soccer Without Borders for its model of community-based development, and the tools it provides under-served youth to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion, and personal success.
Using the universal language of soccer, SWB works primarily with newcomer refugee, asylee, and immigrant youth, ages 7-20, currently from 49 countries of origin across Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. I work with SWB’s Oakland program, specifically helping with the U-19 women’s team. 35% of SWB participants are female, an extraordinary participation level for minority girls and adolescents from these cultural backgrounds.
SWB was founded in Oakland but now has programs in Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, Colorado, Nicaragua, and Uganda. Of the youth that SWB works with, 70% are refugees and nearly all are English language learners, with few or no English speaking adults in their household. Economically, 99% of participants qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The organization takes an innovative approach to converting the uniting power of soccer into meaningful learning opportunities for newcomers, empowering them to access pathways to success. SWB’s adaptable program model leverages soccer as a vehicle for positive change, as well as the interpersonal safety net of a team to create a platform for youth to advance academically, develop personally, make healthy lifestyle choices, build social capital, and develop language skills.
Working with SWB, and being supported to take time away from work to do so, has been one of the most rewarding experiences this past year. It’s even given me the opportunity to use valuable skills from The Key -- like crafting a successful pitch to U.S. Soccer to donate 25 tickets for our women’s teams. We traveled to Santa Clara to watch the defending World Champs play South Africa in their “send-off series” before they made their way to France for the 2019 World Cup.