Making sport an engine for change and a tool for combating educational poverty
As part of the Sport for Change programme, Fondazione Milan created “From Milan to the World”, the initiative-contest in partnership with PUMA that saw the participation of six non-profit associations from all continents.
Representing North America, the Success Academy Charter Schools, a network of charter schools operating in New York City, took part in the charity competition. In 2014, the Success Academy created the Soccer Program, a programme that aims to make football a sport open to all, thus challenging the American model that guarantees quality football training and education only to children and young people from high-income families.
Just as the Success Academy charter school network was created with the goal of giving everyone the chance to receive a quality education, and the opportunity to have access to tools and learning opportunities that would otherwise be unattainable, so the Soccer Program was created with the goal of making football open to everyone, regardless of background, race, religion, or wealth. Contrary to much of the rest of the world, football in the United States is considered a ‘privileged’ sport, not accessible to the majority of the population due to the pay-to-play model. Differences in access to the sport are even more pronounced in the deeply multicultural context of New York City, where social inequalities are profound.
As a result, Success Academy operates primarily in the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Bronx areas, where many families are either economically and socially disadvantaged or do not have the financial means to provide their children with a quality education, let alone the opportunity to participate in a paid sports program. Success Academy wants to contribute to a slow but steady socio-cultural change, giving the most disadvantaged children the chance to enjoy quality sporting and educational training, and at the same time nurturing the development of the entire US football landscape, particularly with regard to the public education system.
Since 2014, the Soccer Program has welcomed more than 6,000 boys and girls, aged 5 to 15, to the field, attending charter schools spread across the target areas, 85% of whom come from low-income households. What characterises the football programme most is the great gender and, above all, ethnic diversity: 76% of the children are African American, 15% are Latino, 1% Asian and a further 3% are multi-ethnic. The ultimate goal of the SA Soccer Program is to include a total of 10,000 children and young people in the school football programme by 2024.