Kicking it with Conexin de Ftbol in Truckee Tahoe
“Kicking it” was the order of the day as Truckee youth traveled to Kings Beach to play the lakeside children on a recent Saturday. The excitement of an intense rivalry filled the air at the Boys andamp; Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, as did the smell of pizza. The youngsters engaged in round robin indoor soccer play, writing thank you’s to those who have been instrumental to the program, and, of course, wolfing down pizza.This special event is one of the last few sessions for this season of Conexin de Ftbol, a winter indoor soccer outreach program for those who could use some additional role modeling, accountability and fun. It meets on Saturdays at Truckee Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club in Kings Beach.The Sierra Mountain Soccer Club’s Amy Machin-Ward first conceived the Conexin de Ftbol program, dedicated to instilling respect and creating healthier life styles for children. The program offers more than a “wear them out and send them home” strategy. Soccer is a powerful motivational tool to help vulnerable kids develop the confidence to make better decisions within their school environment and the community.Conexin de Ftbol can help them learn from each other and the supervising adults how to more positively engage their world. To improve inter-community relationships, they were introduced to key law enforcement and rescue workers from the area, and taught the value of working together as a community is the same as working together as a team.Conexin de Ftbol is designed especially for youngsters struggling academically in school, those who have already engaged the justice system, and those in need of positive adult role models. The program accepts all who are considered “at-risk” in grades three through eight. Participants are asked to complete a program contract that holds them accountable for their actions in school and in the community.”I asked the kids one day during one of our ‘motivational discussions’ what they wanted to be when they grew up. Their responses blew me away. Three quarters of them said they wanted to be police officers. I attribute this to the relationships built and positive role modeling that this program provided,” explains Karen Foster, Truckee site coordinator. The Truckee site has provided service to more than 50 children.The Kings Beach site served more than 70 children from Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, Kings Beach and Incline Village. Kings Beach program coordinator, Jerry Dinzes, was honored to have the opportunity to build positive relationships between the children and their community. “A few of our kids came into the program with bad attitudes, but by the end of the season they had become some of our most respectful and enjoyable participants. This program was long overdue for these kids,” said Dinzes.By all accounts, the program has been a complete success. As Amy Machin-Ward, executive director of Sierra Mountain Soccer Club expressed, “We are amazed to have been able to serve over 120 kids in this first season of Conexin de Ftbol. Soccer is an extremely positive force of motivation in the lives of these kids.”Without strong community support and the relentless efforts of the Sierra Mountain Soccer Club the program would not have come to fruition. There was so much faith in this program staff members from the Boys and Girls Club would come down every Saturday on their own time to open their facilities. Eco Print and Imaging in Kings Beach provided “in kind” flyers to help advocate the program.Captain Rick Russ and his crew from the North Tahoe Fire District’s Station 52 visited the Kings Beach facility one Saturday in February. The children were given a first class tour of a station fire truck and ambulance. The tour ended with a demonstration of the fire truck’s water cannon, resulting in instant glee.Placer County Sheriff’s Officer Mary Kelly and Truckee Police Officer Arnie Lopez were a crucial part of the program, offering frequent visits and building trust and positive relationships with the children.The program extends it gratitude to the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, the Truckee Rotary Foundation, and the Truckee Police Officers Association for their financial support and a few community members who gave private donations.Not just beneficial for the young folks involved, Conexin de Ftbol is good for the entire community. The goals of the program include:* Providing a healthy and safe environment for learning and enjoyment of soccer* Fostering positive relationships between youths and law enforcement officers* Reducing the amount and severity of juvenile crime in North Tahoe area* Breaking down barriers between different ethnic and cultural groupsA pre- and post-program survey will be conducted for all participants (adults and children) to assess the impact of the program on their attitudes toward one another, school behavior patterns, academic progress and community engagement.Special thanksTo the officers and firefighters who contributed time on and off duty. To the North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s Station 52 Captains Rick Russ and Steve Simons and firefighters Nicole Paynter, Rick Schnoor and Scott Baumgardner. To Placer County Sheriff’s office Mary Kelly, Truckee Police Officers Arnie Lopez and Bryan Berry, CHP Officer Tony Prisco, Truckee Firefighters Doc Holoday, Al Lamas, Erik Jitloff, Dave Fichter, community volunteers Ken Rae, Ignacio and Romina Branji and to Ben Visnyei and Mindy Carbajal of the Boys and Girls Club. Special thanks are due also to all of the school and community agency personnel who referred the youth.For more information contact Program Director Amy Machin-Ward at (530) 386-6047.andamp;#8212; Submitted to the Sun via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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