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Brotherhood Crusade expands Soccer for Success program

Juliana D. Norwood | 11/16/2011, 5 p.m.

The Brotherhood Crusade is a nonprofit institution founded in 1968 to provide resources, services and a voice of advocacy to traditionally underserved communities. Its mission is to help individuals overcome barriers that deter their pursuit of success, and to offer programming that improves quality of life, promotes health, fosters educational and economic opportunities and builds community.

The organization recently announced that its Soccer for Success program will expand into a number of area schools and serve more than 1,500 South Los Angeles youth. As of this week, the Soccer for Success (SFS) program now includes John Muir Middle School; Budlong Avenue Elementary School; Danny Bakewell Primary Center; Manchester Avenue Elementary School; 52nd Street Elementary School; and Menlo Avenue Elementary School. Over the next three months, Brotherhood Crusade will launch programs at Horace Mann Junior High, Fremont High School, Challenger's Boys and Girls Club and Weingart YMCA.

The SFS initiative, which was launched in March, is intended to improve the physical, mental, academic and emotional health of local children by engaging them in a safe environment. SFS also seeks to bring families and communities together through family-strengthening activities. Uniforms and equipment are provided gratis to participants during the eight-to-12 week sessions, which run year-round.

On Saturday the Brotherhood Foundation will host a site visit and reception at the Challengers Boys and Girls Club, 5029 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Speakers at the event will include Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition; Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment; Charisse Bremond Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade; and Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

Nathan J. Sessoms of the Brotherhood Crusade, who works directly with SFS participants, believes that the program's success lies in its ability to use soccer as a mentoring vehicle. "As the youths learn the sport, we can ask them 'How's it going in school? Is everything OK with you?' That way, we obtain information about their academic progress, as well as any social barriers they may be facing, such as bullying. Also, during a pick-up or drop-off by the parents, we engage them in the process, as well," he continued.

George Weaver, who administers SFS for the Brotherhood Crusade, recently visited some of the program sites, where he spoke with a male teenager who recently lost 16 pounds playing soccer, while another girl reported losing 13 pounds. Brotherhood Crusade offers a range of anti-obesity initiatives, and views its sports programs as a way to help youth build self-confidence, develop interpersonal skills, and learn the importance of teamwork.