Soccer Without Borders uses soccer to foster inclusion and support newcomer refugee and immigrant youth as they integrate into their new communities and build their English language skills. This mission made Seattle World School a perfect fit for the city’s first program.
“For the World School, it’s our first expression of having programming in Seattle, so we’re brand-new in Seattle essentially,” said Lindsey Whitford, director of Soccer Without Borders Seattle.
Whitford grew up playing soccer in Capitol Hill, she said, and is returning to Seattle after spending five years directing SWB in Boston.
The Seattle World School is Seattle Public Schools’ entry point for immigrant students, who have long wanted a soccer program, but past efforts had been unsuccessful.
“The World School emerged as both a high-need and high-opportunity area because it’s 100 percent newcomer youth, and they don’t have an athletic program,” Whitford said.
SWB has international programs around the globe, and is growing in the United States with programs in Baltimore, Oakland and Greeley, Colorado.
Key to its success is having mentors that can craft a welcoming and inclusive team environment, Whitford said, as well as provide a place to build community and support educational goals for newcomer students.
“How that’s delivered is changed by local context,” she said.
SWB Seattle launches in March, and is being boosted by funding provided through the Lipman Family Prize for Social Impact and Innovation from the Wharton School of Business. A portion of that prize allowed Whitford to acquire a social impact certificate through Wharton’s program in 2017.
The prize is also helping SWB evaluate and strengthen its programming and organizational infrastructure, making the program more sustainable as the nonprofit continues expanding into new communities.
Whitford said SWB measures success in its programs through surveys with students and whether participants are improving their English skills and following healthy lifestyles.
Many students are already familiar with the sport when SWB starts a new program, Whitford said, and getting girls to participate sometimes takes a little more effort.
“They’re coming from cultural traditions, family backgrounds where it’s not the norm for girls to be participating in athletic programs,” she said. “For some girls, soccer will be the hook. For others, the team base will be the hook.”
As SWB readies to launch in Seattle, Whitford said the program can benefit from community volunteers and new and gently used soccer equipment donations. Priority items include cleats (size 7 and above), soccer socks, shorts, jerseys and coaching equipment. Donations can be left at the main office of Seattle World School, 1700 E. Union St., 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, starting Monday, Feb. 26.
For questions about SWB Seattle, call 206-569-4904 or email email@example.com.
Learn more about Soccer Without Borders and its Seattle program here.