Empowering Girls Through Soccer
By Stephanie Silberman, HOLA Development & Communications Manager
On a cool Thursday evening, elementary and middle school students shuffle into La Fayette Park for soccer practice at HOLA Athletics. Amongst the youngsters is 9-year-old Esmeralda. One of the first onto the field, Esmeralda is completely fearless of the ball. She is a boss on the field, stealing the ball from the other players. It’s truly empowering to watch her play. After practice, she always stays to support her younger brother and cousin, who have also joined the league.
Her coach is HOLA alumna Jenny Vega-Espinoza (Class of 2017), a sophomore at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a minor in Education. When asked about Esmeralda, Jenny lights up, “She’s barely 9. I can’t imagine what she can do in high school. Perhaps she’ll get a scholarship to college. It’s crazy because she is so small… I think she has a lot to offer. She will continue to learn more and progress.” Her whole family plays soccer, but “she has a cannon for a leg.”
Another coach remarked that Esmeralda is one of the girls who really just enjoys playing and doesn’t mind giving it her all. She is a great addition to the team and has inspired more girls to join the league. It is her first year playing at HOLA, so everyone is excited to see what she can achieve.
“I like that HOLA let’s me play [in the soccer league]. I don’t like school because I have to wake up early, but I would for soccer.” In the future, Esmeralda hopes to help people. She says, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to save people.”
Students like Esmeralda not only follow their passions at HOLA, but also receive academic help and support as they progress in the program, eventually onto College Success. She has great coaches and mentors, like Jenny, she relates to both on and outside the field. Her fearlessness is truly something to admire.
Visit www.heartofla.org/athletics to learn more about HOLA's Athletics Programs.
October 2, 2018