NYer Of The Week: Greg Pinel Uses Soccer Registration Funds To Support Underserved Schools
It may not be the country's most popular sport, but this week's New Yorker is using soccer to help spark social change, particulary in New York City schools. NY1's Elizabeth Kaledin filed the following report.
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Greg Pinel believes every child should have the best shot in life, both on and off the pitch. But he says there is a problem.
"The school system here is fundamentally flawed," he says. "I lived pretty close to an Indian reservation growing up. I realized they have public schools too but they don't offer the same level of public service that my public school gets. That's essentially what I have seen in New York.
"A city's education budget should be able to accommodate for differences in wealth," he adds. "It's patently unfair."
Watching education budgets shrink and sports programs get cut, Greg decided soccer could be the answer.
In 2009 he founded the World Soccer Project, an international association that runs adult co-ed leagues and uses registration fees to support education and sports programming in underserved schools.
"After-school sports keep kids in school," he says. "It keeps them out of trouble. All kids need an outlet and and opportunity to get fit and stay fit."
"We are going to see over the next three years a 30 to 40 percent increase in students graduating simply because they are connected more with school," says Henry Street School principal Erin McMahon. "To see their progression as a team in a sense of community from the fall through the spring, it's only been one year but it's been transformative."
Pinel says soccer has another advantage. Its international appeal helps New York’s diverse students learn.
"Our kids from other countries, our immigrants, come and they know the game," says Mike Farina, a soccer coach at Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology. "It gives them an opportunity to relate and feel at home."
Even losing a game becomes a lesson.
"You learn how to lose and how to win," says Cesar Najarro, a student at the Brooklyn Latin School. "You learn how to be disappointed in the face of defeat and how to enjoy a victory."
So, for starting an adult soccer program that gives kids a chance to score, Greg Pinel is our New Yorker of the Week.