Photo Credit: Steve Schaefer
By: Lautaro Grinspan
This summer, Latino youth on Buford Highway will have a new outlet to stay in shape and out of trouble: a month-long free soccer academy.
Aside from bringing soccer classes to roughly 50 children ages 5 to 14, the academy will also feature free health, wellbeing, and immigration services to childrens’ parents. Funded by DeKalb County, the soccer academy, which began June 5, is a collaboration between two local immigrant-serving organizations, LCF Georgia and Ser Familia, an Atlanta-based nonprofit Soccer in the Streets. The pilot program, currently at capacity, will run through the month of June, but organizers hope to expand it into a yearlong initiative, with potentially more signups to come.
“During the summer, a lot of the parents are working while kids are out of school. And so it was usually conducive to the kids making poor decisions and loitering and getting into drugs or gang activity,” said Pedro Viloria, Health and Wellbeing Manager at LCF Georgia. “And so really, the purpose of this is to … support the parents who have multiple dependents and no money to afford childcare.”
The soccer academy’s location, in Doraville’s Honeysuckle Park, just blocks away from Buford Highway, was picked because of its proximity to immigrant communities.
“Buford Highway is kind of the stronghold for the Latino community here in Atlanta,” Viloria said. “Because of Georgia’s hostile laws against immigrants, getting a driver’s license or being able to drive safely is not necessarily an option for our community members. And so, [Honeysuckle Park] was an option because it’s a location that is very centric to the community.”
Viloria noted that, in years and decades past, there were more publicly available spaces for Buford Highway youth to gather and play, but that they’ve been going away as development and gentrification set in.
Programming for parents at the soccer academy include blood pressure, glucose and mental health checks. There are also nutrition workshops, meditation exercises, a Zumba class, and opportunities to interact with immigration lawyers. On Saturday, LCF Georgia will hold a know-your-rights session for immigrant patients, to help families navigate the healthcare system.
“We want to offer not just kids, but also the parents activities for them to participate in and build healthier habits,” Viloria said.
Even though the program is full now, for further information on potential future offerings contact LCF Georgia at 678-705-2057 or by email at [email protected]. Ser Familia can be reached at 678-363-3079 or by email at [email protected].
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