By STEVE JACKSON
Program Development Director
Sony and Sothea McBain, sisters from the Logan section of Philadelphia, walked into the building with huge smiles on their faces—they had brought some friends. They did not need any prompts. They knew what to do.
“Sony and Sothea led by example,” said Jesse Petrillo, a Junior Leader coach who works with the girls. “Whether they are on the field or in the classroom, you know what you are going to get from them. Sony is very personable, helpful, and always willing to motivate and teach her teammates. Sothea is very bright and comes to Starfinder to learn. This hunger for knowledge is contagious. They both have a very bright future.”
The Starfinder culture is special, and the fervor and commitment of the families that return over and over again helps create our unique environment.
|Sothea MacBain plays during the Junior Leaders program.
Sony, Sothea, and Joshua MacBain came to Starfinder’s programs over a year ago. How they came to be part of the Starfinder family is a wonderful story.
In 1991, Ken and Anita MacBain moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Logan section of Philadelphia. They immersed themselves in the Cambodian community and worked with a Cambodian church to help provide an array of programs to its members.
After ten years of working with local families, the MacBains created LOGAN Hope, a private Christian school for grades K-8, designed to help children, mostly Cambodian, who struggle with learning in a traditional Philadelphia public school classroom setting.
“We wanted to serve poor families, who didn’t have or perceive school choice, with a safe and excellent school,” said Anita MacBain, mother of Sony and Sothea. In its first year, LOGAN Hope enrolled 17 children and had 3 teachers. Today, there are 70 students, and they have graduated 18 young people who are currently attending quality high schools and colleges throughout the region. They have designed a school that values excellence, teaching youth that they have a choice in their educational pursuits and there are people who care about their choices.
After LOGAN Hope started, Ken and Anita decided to adopt a child from Cambodia. In 2002, after a long and arduous process, the MacBain’s welcomed Joshua to their family. Just a few years later they were able to adopt Sony and Sothea.
Both girls admit to struggles when they first arrived in the USA as 4 and 5-year-olds. Their biggest struggles were in English and math, but they both understood the importance of perseverance and the impact that these subjects would have in achieving their life goals.
“I keep telling myself I will have a bright future and potential,” Sothea said. “But right now, I have to suck it up and do my schoolwork to get that great future. I might break down sometimes, but I have to get back up. Math will not be the [downfall] of me.”
Although their attitudes and aspirations are clearly nurtured by their family and teachers, they believe Starfinder plays an important role in their development and future.
“Starfinder is good for me, because instead of going to the computer, I get to go out and do physical [activity], get in shape and get healthy,” Sony said. “Starfinder is hard, but it is also fun. My skills in soccer have improved a lot. There is teamwork and encouraging words.”
“Team sports, in particular, help children learn teamwork, leadership, and the need for discipline to get their other work done, as well as to train and improve on their own,” Anita said. “Children in our community have many easy distractions and activities that either lead in negative directions or don’t lead to learning and growth. Structured learning with fitness and a sport that they can play for life is a valuable combination.”
This is why she continues to bring her children and invites others to join. And, like any good parent, she understands the need for a quality education.
“The kids don’t come if they don’t complete their homework before the program,” Anita said.
When evaluating our programs, participant retention and referrals are two indicators of success. The MacBains are among our most eager supporters, continually finding ways to integrate the kids from their community and LOGAN Hope into our program.
The culture that you see at Starfinder is one that invokes inclusion, understanding, guidance, support, knowledge, and friendship.
“At Starfinder, giving your all to the game is the best feeling. Getting that feeling that you tried your hardest makes you feel good,” Sony said.
Doc Cousounis Award Recipients Annunced!
March 1, 2013
This winter’s Doc Cousounis Award recipients are Tahir Mohammed (age 16), Irvin Dinkins, Jr. (age 11), and Tallinn McNulty (age 11). These young people demonstrated a commitment to developing soccer through community service and consistently displayed Starfinder’s core values.
Click here to learn more about the award
“Tallinn shows responsibility beyond her years. As a captain of the Soccer Girls Rule program at Cooke, she is consistent in her leadership by helping her peers to calmly resolve problems with fairness, by showing respect as a good listener, and by reminding teammates to keep the bus clean of snack wrappers.”
- Jeanette Hibbs, Soccer Girls Rule Director & Coach
Tallinn McNulty, Soccer Girls Rule participant
2nd Annual Starfinder College Showcase
March 1, 2013
Twenty-five college soccer coaches from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C. came together at Starfinder for our 2nd Annual College Showcase on Monday, January 21, 2013.
The day started with a little “pep” talk from one of the college coaches, Steve McAnulty, assistant coach at the United States Military Academy. He briefly explained what the coaches would be looking for in their play. In addition, and more importantly, he highlighted that the coaches would be concerned with their academic records and the quality of their character.
The talk really worked because all of the kids played with passion, intensity, and inspiration. Every game was highly competitive and was played in a manner that demonstrated the kids’ personal skill as well as their knowledge of the game. When you combine these attributes with the kids’ love, desire, and dedication to the game, it was not a surprise that many of the coaches left incredibly impressed.
|The Senior Leaders listen to Steve McAnulty, assistant coach from the
United States Military Academy, while he describes what the coaches are
looking for in their play.
“Starfinder provides so many services for the young kids that help to make them better people both on and off the field,” said Brian Gill, Assistant Coach at Georgetown. “I think having a college showcase at Starfinder allowed the players to gain perspective first hand on how closely linked their academic and athletic worlds actually are. It was a great event for us to see these players in their natural environment, getting a chance to showcase their skills on the field, and for us to learn more about them as people.”
The College Showcase is an important component to the Senior Leaders Program. Many of Starfinder’s participants do not play on a club team, making their high school games the only opportunity to be seen by a college coach.
Unfortunately, college coaches do not often recruit at high school games. Therefore, the College Showcase becomes the opportunity for each player to impress a coach who can help him realize one of his many goals – playing college soccer.
Our coaches continually encourage each Senior Leader to talk about his goals, ambitions and aspirations for the future. They discuss with all participants the steps that are necessary to achieve their goals and the ways in which Starfinder can provide assistance. The College Showcase is a wonderful opportunity for the Starfinder staff to reinforce these important messages.
Gothia Cup 2012: Meet the World--In Sweden!
October 10, 2012
How many trips would it take for you to meet people from 78 countries, share a common goal with 37,200 youth, and play soccer against teams from Sweden, Norway, Zambia, and Germany? For most it would require more than a lifetime’s worth of travel, but for a group of eighteen U18 Starfinder Senior Leaders the answer is: ONE!
For the second consecutive year, SKF USA Inc. sponsored a team of Starfinder participants to meet the world at the Gothia Cup 2012 in Gothenburg, Sweden. In just seven short days, over 1,600 teams played 4,500 games!
With a team comprised of players hailing from multiple countries, Starfinder’s diversity personified the melting pot that is the Gothia Cup. Through videography and photography, Team Starfinder documented their experience -- demonstrating how sport has the power to motivate and unite people by creating a safe environment that supports diversity, tolerance and cultural exchange. (View their video here.)
Though our team did not enjoy the success in tournament play that they had hoped for, they departed as champions of a more significant game: LIFE!
Starfinder in Good Hands with Allstate
October 10, 2012
Allstate Insurance selected Starfinder as its exclusive charity for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game and on July 24, brought former US National Team goalie Tony Meola to Starfinder for a private soccer clinic with 45 of our Senior Leaders. In addition to the Hall of Famer’s personal instruction, Tony offered inspiring words about the commitment, sacrifice and determination that are necessary to achieve your dreams.
After the clinic, Tony surprised our kids with tickets to the next day’s All-Star Game between Chelsea and the MLS All-Stars.
Prior to the game, soccer fans were invited to participate in Allstate’s “Diving for Charity” activity benefitting Starfinder. For each person who took a turn in a simulated dive, Allstate pledged $25 up to $5,000. Lucky for us, the line never died down, and Allstate presented a $5,000 check to Starfinder to support our youth development programs!
This memorable 24 hours was topped off as our kids cheered the “home team” MLS All Stars onto victory against the reigning Champions League cup holders 3-2.
Where Are They Now?: Starfinder Graduate Dodji Freitas--Senior at Holy Family University
October 10, 2012
Tell us about your favorite thing from your time at Starfinder.
I was part of Starfinder from 2007 to 2009. My favorite memories from Starfinder were meeting people from different cultures, backgrounds and learning from them, and also attending different soccer workshops.
How did Starfinder prepare you for college?
I believe that Starfinder helped me mature as a player and also as an individual to be able to progress in class and also on the soccer field.
Talk about a leadership opportunity that you had in college that Starfinder helped prepare you for.
I am currently one of the captains of the Holy Family University men’s soccer team. One thing we were taught at Starfinder is to work hard, be respectful, never take anything for granted and most importantly respect every person we come across.
Talk about the differences between your high school and college experiences.
College students pay for their classes whereas some high schools are free, so you wouldn’t expect college students to cut class. College students are expected to come to class having already studied the material, so that more information can be covered each semester than is possible in a typical high school setting. College students are typically self-motivated and more able to take responsibility for their own learning.
What words of advice would you give for the kids in the Starfinder program on getting prepared for college?
The first weeks of your first semester will be a whirlwind of activity. However, you have to be at your best to be as socially involved as possible because you will need lots of help in college. One other thing is being organized. The last thing you want to do during the first weeks in college is scramble to get organized. Make a system of organization and stick to it. Also build a strong relationship with your academic advisor.
If there is one thing you wish you knew in high school that you know now, what would it be?
Go to every class, take advantage of the extra help that teachers offer and also go to study halls.
Dodji is a wonderful role model for all of Starfinder’s young participants. We are very proud of what he has accomplished.