Suzie Hernandez is going into her fourth year at San Francisco State University. Having volunteered at E-Soccer since her freshman year, Suzie is now one of San Francisco E-Soccer’s more experienced coaches. She appreciates watching the kids in the program progress in their skills and friendships.
“It’s just really cool to see the change and the growth … from someone who has a really hard time coming in to E-Soccer at first but then actually enjoys it and has fun and even makes friends with the rest of the kids.”
Suzie believes that the friendships developed at E-Soccer are inclusion in action. E-Soccer is uniquely accommodating to the needs of students of all abilities. While there are many great programs that are created solely for people with special needs or for people with typical needs, it is harder to find programs where students of all backgrounds are welcome. Implementing inclusion in sports in high schools and other competitive athletic arenas has been a conflicting topic of debate in the 21st century. In these competitive leagues, officials worry about making sure the game remains fair and unchanged. At E-Soccer we work with players to adapt our program to their inclusion needs. Coach Suzie has seen this during her time volunteering at E-Soccer.
“I think inclusion is defined even throughout E-Soccer. Like kids with special needs and typical needs are coming together, meeting each other, and having fun together. And I think that gets rid of any … negative stigma that comes with … people being different or having different weaknesses and strengths … I see that a lot in E-Soccer and it’s really cool.”
E-Soccer’s inclusive environment has been beneficial for Suzie as well as the children she has worked with. It has provided her with experience in giving to the community as well as becoming friends with people of different backgrounds and abilities. Suzie feels that volunteering at E-Soccer has helped her with having compassion and understanding those around her.
“I think just having a better understanding and actually making a difference in my community. I never thought I’d be doing E-Soccer or be involved with helping kids with special needs and [typical] needs. But yeah I think it’s just helped me gain a better understanding and have more compassion and really be involved with helping the people around me and the youth around me. So it’s really broadened my understanding and experiences, I think, with different types of people.”
Suzie is grateful to have had the opportunity to give back to the community through E-Soccer. She wants to continue to give back in the future through her career.
“I think that’s something I’ve been taught from an early age is to always give back to my community and not just be about myself, not just look after myself but actually take an interest in others and helping other people and building up the youth for sure. I might go into teaching Spanish, so that’s been one of my goals. I definitely want to be able to make change and impact the people around me.”
When Suzie works with the children, her bright smiles and calm guidance are evidence of her genuine care and belief that giving to these kids makes a difference. Wherever her future takes her, Suzie will be able to use her experience with inclusion and building community to create impact.