A 'CaN-do' Church Births a Movement ... GOAL! PDF Print E-mail

Everyone knows by now that the Portland Timbers won a thrilling nail-biter last month to earn the Major League Soccer (MLS) title. Did you know that two Salem-Keizer schools, Auburn Elementary and Scott Elementary, are co-Champions of GRASSP (Grass Roots After School Soccer Program)? You haven’t seen these young athletes on ESPN (yet!), but they play with everything they’ve got and have tons of fun doing it. GRASSP is a free soccer-and-academic program that was birthed through the CaN Centers Collaboration (video story at www.salemLF.org). It serves more than 200 local 4th- and 5th-grade students every week through soccer and character development. The volunteer coaches teach soccer skills on the field and character skills off the field: servant leadership, pride in school and family, winning with humility, losing with dignity, and teamwork.



GRASSP was created in East Salem by a partnership between Swegle Elementary and Calvary Chapel Salem, a nearby church. Swegle’s principal, Corina Valencia-Chavez, was very concerned about students from unstable homes who were on the fringe, not attending school, and getting poor grades. Many of them were being recruited by the gangs. Sra. Chavez thought an after-school soccer club would help selected students bond with school. She envisioned a tutoring component, as well, where the students would get help with homework and engage positive role models. Providentially, a young man in Calvary Chapel’s congregation just happened to be 1) a soccer expert, and 2) available! Likius Hafeni, from the African nation of Namibia, has international soccer certifications and a knack for connecting with kids from diverse cultures. As Likius often says, “soccer is an international language” and it’s much more than just a sport. Soccer has a beautiful way of uniting people, culture and place. Countries have even paused wars to allow soccer matches to proceed! Likius began working with kids at Swegle and the word spread …

Today, there are seven (going on eight!) schools involved with GRASSP: Swegle, Auburn, Scott, Chavez, Washington, Four Corners, Richmond and … (waiting for final OK). Major partners include Calvary Chapel, New Hope Foursquare, First Free Methodist, Outward Church, and Capitol Futbol Club, which is providing coaching expertise and soccer equipment, such as much-needed goals. SLF is proud to be a sponsor, as well, in the person of McKay Lightning Rod, Kaleb Herring, who co-directs GRASSP with Likius (who, by the way, graduated from Corban University last spring!). The teams are currently doing match play, with the next GRASSP tournament scheduled for May 21st at Calvary Chapel. Kaleb and Co. invite you to come and enjoy what is known as “the beautiful game.” Witness kids smiling, coaches exhorting, families beaming, teachers rooting … and lives changing. ‘CaN’ do!

We’ll be talking,



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