To the casual onlooker, the Kick, Lead, and Dream soccer camp looks like a typical summer activity for local children. But for the campers and students involved, it is so much more.
Kick, Lead, and Dream aims to create a fun environment where motivated high school student coaches volunteer to become role models and provide at-risk kids from Mountain View and Sunnyvale public schools the opportunity to improve their soccer skills, learn valuable leadership qualities and gain the confidence to dream big.
It’s not necessarily about the soccer, though. Just ask intern Edgar Tapia, himself a former camper and coach.
“I came to this camp with no interest in soccer whatsoever,” he said. “It was just a place to be busy during the summer. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it as much as I did.”
Tapia said he has never met his father and grew up in an unstable home.
“The coaches were such positive role models,” he said. “I never had anyone to encourage me in school, and the coaches showed me the ropes.”
Tapia now attends UC Davis on a full-ride scholarship.
“This camp has given me hope that I can become successful,” he said. “I didn’t have that person to look up to, but the camp provided me with coaches that always talked about college, and they gave me that positivity I so desperately needed – every kid needs it.”
Mountain View High student Akash Nigam founded the nonprofit Kick, Lead, and Dream 10 years ago, and the camp has grown annually to inspire 10 times more than the original 35 campers. The camp now serves approximately 350 campers, entering third through eighth grades. Campers pay $10 to attend the two-week session.
Because leadership is a key element of the camp, Kick, Lead, and Dream has developed its own self-sustaining model. As campers begin to age out of the program, they can become coaches and learn leadership skills as they continue to experience the camp in a different light. A small subset of older high school students serve as camp leaders.
Leaders begin planning the camp in December, convening weekly to tackle everything from sponsors to donations, buses (students are bused to camp) and the creation of that year’s teams and activities.
“It’s a lot of planning, but it’s so worth it,” said Marlon Portillo, student leader and senior at Homestead High School.
During Kick, Lead, and Dream, campers are assigned to teams with country names and coaches. What makes the camp different, Portillo pointed out, is that skill is not a requirement.
“You can be who you want to be here,” he said. “If you want to play forward, goalie – it doesn’t matter if you are good or not. If you’ve never played, you can play whatever position you want.”
Portillo said a major theme throughout the camp is “Lead by Example,” and that trickles all the way down to the campers.
When camper Saksham Karki was asked what he learned from his coach, he said, “Never make fun of people, never judge them, just be nice.”
Kick, Lead, and Dream wraps up its two-week program at Cooper Park in Mountain View this week.
For more information, visit kldsoccer.com.