By: Mirwais Jalalzai
“It is my dream of being a professional soccer player one day,” Mohmad said. He is one of the students in New American Pathways’ after school program. All of the club’s players want to be professionals like Leo Messi of Argentine and Cristiano Ronaldo who plays for Manchester United. They’re so excited to learn soccer roles and techniques in the after school program at a Dekalb County charter school.
“I would watch players like Ronaldo and want to be like him one day,” Abu Baker said. Abu is one of 10 students working towards their goals on the after school soccer team, a New AP led extracurricular group for refugee students in Decatur, Georgia. Mirwais Jalalzai is the team’s lead and helps manage the club.
Soccer is just one of the activities at the New American Pathways after school program for the students. “Soccer club started as a safe space for kids to be kids, and explore hobbies, talents, and interests that they have,” Jalalzai said. “It’s youth-led, so the kids tell us what they want to do and we make it happen for them.”
This season’s soccer team is composed of boys and girls who are mostly from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Barma, Rwanda and Thailand. “Right now, there is a mixed team of girls and boys we currently have one team of [players] of 10 kids,” Jalalzai said.
10-year-old Shazia is a refugee from Afghanistan whose family escaped wars and conflict. She said that she’s grateful to play with teammates who understand her struggle saying, “We connect well together because we’re from the same school, and mostly same backgrounds.” Shazia added that it wouldn’t be possible without the community’s donations that keep the program running.
Soccer is a great tool for connection and development for kids. It teaches teamwork and helps builds friendships that are especially important for students.