February 17, 2012 > High school volunteers give 'kick-start'
High school volunteers give 'kick-start'
American High varsity soccer team gives back to local elementary school
By Helen Tracey-Noren
Photos By Helen Tracey-Noren
Jerry Losson, coach of the American High School varsity girls soccer team and physical education department chair, sets the bar high for his team. "Kids don't rise to low expectations," Losson said. "If you set the bar high, they will rise to meet it." In addition to maintaining high grades, Losson insists that the ShEagles soccer team be good citizens in order to play for him.
"Over the last couple of years, we try to get the kids to realize that they are part of a community, and that they need to be good citizens," Losson said. "Your career as an athlete only lasts so long. You've got to learn to be a good citizen."
Losson has been coaching the American High School ShEagles for the past eight seasons and each year the team has qualified for the California North Coast Sectional playoffs. They've also received recognition by the California Interscholastic Federation for maintaining a 3.0 grade point average as a team.
Every soccer season, the ShEagles and Losson volunteer to better their community and themselves as citizens. In past years, they have volunteered with the American Cancer Society but this year, the girls decided to give their time to another cause close to their heart.
Kim Johnson, assistant coach to Losson and a teacher at John M. Blacow Elementary School, volunteers her time to help train the ShEagles. After years of coaching with the Ohlone College Renegades, Johnson called Losson - whom she met during college at CSU East Bay - to see if she could assist his coaching efforts. Losson accepted and they have been working together for the past two seasons.
Losson wanted to return the favor. "How can I give back to this woman who has given so much of her time to us as a team?" Losson said. And that's when the ShEagles decided to volunteer their time at Blacow Elementary.
The team split into four groups: help teachers in their classrooms, set up Blacow's new science lab, redecorate the multipurpose room, and teach the kids soccer skills during physical education.
"If you look good, you feel good," said Kala Clark, a senior at American High School and co-captain of the ShEagles this past season. "We're making the school look good, so that [the kids] will feel good. Losson also told us to tell them that school is important and sports are important."
Blacow is one of the last elementary schools to receive a new science laboratory. The ShEagles helped unwrap stools and put together the much needed lab which, according to Blacow Principal Angela Morariu and alum of American High School, will officially open Thursday, February 23.
The elementary school is also one of three immersion schools in the Fremont Unified district, teaching in both Spanish and English. Since eight members of the soccer team speak Spanish fluently, they were able to help in these classrooms.
Not only were the ShEagles glad to be giving back to their community, but Blacow staff was more than happy to welcome the ShEagles to their school. "It's so great to have [the ShEagles] here," Morariu said. "And maybe it will spark their interest to do more community service, or see all these kids and want to become an elementary school teacher."
The ShEagles provided a much needed community service according to P.E. Instructor Justin Charbonneau. "It's great to have the girls here," Charbonneau said. "We don't get too many volunteers. I work four days at another elementary school in the district, and we don't get many volunteers there either." Volunteering not only was a benefit for the elementary school students, but also helped the ShEagles form a stronger bond. "I think that this will bring all the girls together," Clark said. "It will give us something to look back on."
Through playground shouts of calling for the ball and the high school volunteers playing a friendly game of keep-away - which they always seemed to lose - the message of bettering the community was not lost. "Soccer helps develop leadership and confidence in these kids. It helps develop teamwork skills and communication," said Alexandria Johnson, a senior on the ShEagles. "And it keeps you out of trouble, that's for sure," chimed in Melissa Urena, teammate and junior at American High School.
Though the elementary school students may not realize it yet, these volunteers raised the bar for them to become better "big kids." And by raising that bar, the ShEagles challenged themselves to become better citizens too.
If you would like to volunteer at John M. Blacow Elementary School, please call (510) 656-5121 for more information.
Photo Caption: The American High ShEagles