William Jewell College’s men’s soccer team has partnered with Kansas City International Academy (KCIA) for their most recent act of community service: exchanging letters with pen pals in KCIA’s third grade class.
KCIA is an elementary school in downtown Kansas City that has historically served immigrant families. On their website, KCIA notes that students represent 21 different countries across Asia, Africa and South America. KCIA’s website also notes that several students come from economically disadvantaged homes, with 98 percent of their students receiving free or reduced lunch rates.
Eddie Horn, head men’s soccer coach, emphasized the natural connection between the soccer team and KCIA, given the universality of soccer.
“As a Charter school that serves primarily immigrants it seemed like a perfect fit since most people all over the world follow soccer. It is also a very popular recess activity there,” Horn said.
Horn joined the Jewell community about 18 months ago, and this pen pal partnership is the first community outreach project he has been able to implement with his team. Though they had organized a dance for individuals with special needs to take place this past spring, the pandemic sent the team – along with the rest of the campus community – home before they could implement it.
Horn noted that, to him, coaching entails a lot more than ensuring his players are physically adept.
“One of my coaching ‘pillars’ is to help our players become the best version of themselves they can be. It is hard to quantify what that means exactly – a little like Art – hard to describe but you know it when you see it – and a part of that process is learning to give of yourself for the good of others. With Covid it has made it more difficult to find ways for our team to find meaningful ways to achieve this,” Horn said. “It is my hope that this is more meaningful than the typical ‘show up and read to a class’ and then no follow up. With this being a longer term commitment to KCIA, I hope it is more impactful for all involved.”
Grant Ryals, a midfielder on the men’s soccer team and junior physics major, echoed Horn’s sentiments.
“[G]iving back to the community is huge for me. Having the ability to get a large group together committed to making an impact on the people that surround our school – it helps build a unique relationship based on positivity and giving,” Ryals said.
Ryals noted that despite being unable to see the kids’ reactions to the letters, the soccer team has been able to view some “very happy Twitter pictures” that have indicated that the letters have been warmly welcomed by the students of Kansas City International Academy.