Who could forget their first professional sports game? It could have been baseball, basketball, football, or soccer but we all remember our first experiences of walking into the stadium, seeing the players (our heroes!) in real life, and cheering the team on. This past Saturday, our students had the opportunity to see their first professional soccer game, thanks to the generosity of the Aurora Tigres!

As the big black gate to the stadium swung open, we caught our first glimpse of the field and the bus packed full of 80 students erupted into cheers! Minutes later the kids, big and small, bounded off the bus, grabbed their Safe Passage “Juego por la Vida” jerseys, and raced into the stadium. Our youngest students had the honor of taking the field with our black and yellow host, Aurora. Meanwhile, our teenage girls accompanied the rival team, San Pedro, out onto the field. After snapping a few photos, the students joined the rest of the fan base in the stands and settled in for an exciting but scoreless first half. You can see the photos on Facebook here.

The officials signaled the end of the first half and the older students laced up their sneakers and took the field to play during the

10-minute break in front of a stadium full of people! As Aurora emerged from their locker room, our teenagers joined us back in the stands with proud smiles after having showcased their athletic talent in a professional venue! All was going well until, minutes into the second half, San Pedro netted the first goal of the game. The black and yellow Tigres were not to be deterred, however. Led by one of our Sports Instructors, Estuardo Hernandez, the students began cheering for the home team, spurring them on to what would be a 3-1 victory!

We congratulated the happy team on their win before heading back to the project, sunburnt and content, after a wonderful Saturday. On Monday at breakfast, the comedor was alive with chatter as our soccer club participants shared their experiences with classmates. “And not only that,” one Diversificado student proudly stated, “the team is coming to visit us on Wednesday!” And visit they did!

Just after breakfast, we gathered together 45 Safe Passage students with 30 players and 5 trainers from the league-leading soccer team in the gym. Aurora’s head coach, Juan Francisco Roldan, kicked off the activities with an inspiring speech in which he encouraged our students to dream and let nothing stand in their way. Taking a pen and piece of paper, each student wrote his or her dream and a few brave souls even shared their goals with the group.

“I just might have the best job in the world,” I thought to myself as I watched the transformation in our students over the course of the activity. Timid at first with the athletes, (“Que grandes!” “They’re so big!”), but inspired by Coach Roldan’s motivational activity, our students played with a ton of corazon (heart)in every drill led by the players. We ended with a game of 5-on-5 where, according to one of the Aurora players, our kids “held their own.”

“I’m going to play in the women’s soccer world cup and hoist the Guatemalan flag on my shoulders when we win it,” one first grade student told me after the activity wrapped this past Wednesday. This past week’s activities inspired our students to fight hard each and every day to make their dreams a reality just as many of the Aurora players, who always had wanted to play professionally, have done. This determined attitude and fighting spirit is exactly what the students need heading into finals next month and, for our oldest students, towards life after graduation!

-Megan McAdams

Safe Passage Volunteer Coordinator