Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Volunteer’s Perspective: Arlington Youth Soccer Tournament

On Saturday, June 19th, there was a great soccer tournament for at-risk youth at Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School. The event took place on one of the first great summer days - one that was sunny with few clouds and fortunately, it lacked the dreaded DC humidity. The school’s newly renovated soccer fields made for great competition between the students and its spacious cafeteria provided a great setting for a break from sport to enjoy lunchtime conversations. That is where CVN comes in.

After introductions among the volunteers and setting up tables I waited for the tournament to adjourn and the players to rush inside for lunch. After everyone found seats, I wound up at a table with 4 diverse students, all of different nationalities who looked exhausted from their workout, but like any teenager they still had energy for more. Over a lunch of chicken breast and potatoes, I discussed with them the issues surrounding gangs, and let them share their gang related stories and knowledge. At first I was given a sarcastic reaction as the players did not seem interested in discussing gang issues and were still more focused on soccer. Being a fan of Gangland on the History Channel, I was able to share stories of the gang, The Latin Kings, who are from my home of New York. This prompted them to share their own personal experiences. I thought my History Channel background was rather in depth, but I was shocked to learn that each of the students knew a lot more about gangs than I did. Luckily, for their sake, the students said that they never been approached by a gang before, and their stories were mainly learned through gang stories that were told to them. While the four in my group were not in gangs, other tables had students whose brothers and sisters were in gangs so they were able to express the negative impacts they felt from their siblings' associations.

In the end, I felt that I had thoroughly expressed the dangers associated with gangs enough times to bore my group. So, I then went on to discuss their personal interests, and even went as far as teasing them about the U.S. making it further in the World Cup than their national team. After the lunch I was asked by my group to watch them as the soccer tournament resumed. In the end it felt worthwhile knowing the impact that I had and seeing the enjoyment created by the event. Afterward, all the volunteers met to share similar thoughts and stories. This was my favorite event so far, and I hope to share many more experiences like this one through CVN.

- Bryon Miller

Bryon is a leader on the Monthly Volunteering Committee. On September 26th, he will lead a mini-walk with Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs. For more information, click here.

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