Soccer in the Streets, an Atlanta-based organization that teaches children from underrepresented communities social skills, leadership and camaraderie through soccer, was selected to receive $20,000 from Quest Nutrition this year as a part of the company’s annual Quest for Impact campaign.
The group was one of four chosen to receive funding, each of which was acknowledged for their drive to generate a lasting impact within their respective communities. Soccer in the Streets was the only organization based on the East Coast selected for a grant in this year’s cycle.
Currently operating in five neighborhoods around the city, Soccer in the Streets offers a diverse selection of programs educating students on a variety of subjects, ranging from the sport itself to health-related topics like physical and emotional wellness and nutrition.
Chelsea Wood, Soccer in the Streets’ director of leadership and outcomes, said that soccer is an accessible sport in terms of the simplicity of the rules and the amount of equipment needed to play. But financial obstacles prevent students and athletes from being able to participate in local programs and pursue professional opportunities.
“Sport is such an important opportunity for youth to make friends, learn social and emotional competencies and develop leadership,” Wood said. “Soccer is historically expensive to play competitively. In addition to that, transportation is another barrier. Soccer in the Streets works to alleviate those barriers through our StationSoccer model. All youth should have the chance to safely play and experience meaningful relationships.”
Soccer in the Streets operates camps during the summer and runs an after-school program during the academic year.
Tracing its roots back more than 30 years in the Atlanta community, the organization has evolved into a multifaceted network of programs anchored in promoting the wellbeing of youth and the love of the sport. Wood said about 1,400 Atlanta students will be impacted by the organization’s fall programming come the kickoff of the 2023-24 school year.
“What is so amazing about our network is the diversity,” Wood said. “The City of Atlanta is so rich in culture. At our games and tournaments, you really do see the reflection of that. I love that our families take pride in their locations and are able to share that with others around the city.”
Wood said that Soccer in the Streets intends to use the funding from the grant to further develop its Girls with Goals initiative, a program within the organization’s umbrella specifically dedicated to teaching school-aged girls how to navigate a male-dominated society through sessions with guest speakers. Soccer in the Streets will also expand its outreach by opening a sixth StationSoccer location in East Lake this fall.
Additionally, Soccer in the Streets has its sights set on 2026, when the FIFA World Cup is slated to bring millions of spectators to Atlanta. The organization also wants to grow its ‘League of Stations’ to operate in ten Atlanta neighborhoods, a system of soccer fields connected by MARTA routes that are used throughout competition seasons.
“I think the best part of our program is the mentorship and positive influences our coaches are,” Wood said. “My favorite thing to do is watch our school program coaches make every kid feel seen, valued and cared for.”