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'Soccer Without Borders' non-profit helps students embrace their differences

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Posted at 7:31 PM, May 11, 2023

BALITMORE — Helping newly foreign students and their families get acclimated to the states can be challenging. But it's part of the mission for the non-profit 'Soccer Without Borders.'

"Soccer Without Borders is a non-profit that uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change providing youth with a toolkit to overcome barriers to growth, inclusion, and personal success," said Kay Sipes, program director at Soccer Without Borders.

SWB is a national organization with a local community here in Maryland.

Between all of their programs combined annually they serve about 500 students. Aya Alsuhaili and Laila Ray are both seniors in Baltimore City Schools, they are also apart of SWB. Both students, like many of their peers, faced language barriers when moving to the states.

"I didn't know how to speak English," said Raly. English is my third language. I speak Swahili and French."

"I speak Arabic. My second language is English," said Alsuhaili.

They also had cultural norms they were used to, which were somewhat re-imagined after joining the program.

"Girls have to stay home and do chores in the house. But the program made me feel like I can still play soccer just like boys. I didn't know how to play soccer. I was not good. But the program made me feel like even girls can play soccer," said Raly.

"It helped me grow as a person. I would say like, become more independent," Alsuhaili said.

In addition to them competing on the field, the program has a strong urgency to encourage academic success.

"So after the soccer portion of the program, they go back inside. They're usually in a classroom space. They get help with homework if they need to practice English if they have school projects. So kind of a big range of things," said Sipes.

They go above and beyond to help students embrace what makes them unique.

"Because of the program I feel confident that I can speak too, even though my language is not that good, I can still do it," Raly said.

"You will be appreciated for the differences that you bring here," Alsuhaili said.