Written by Colin Patch
Digital Media Intern
It was 8th grade, the watershed year where more challenging high school classes are on the horizon -- and, generally, a stressful time for kids.
Sebastian Duque faced even greater challenges. The immigrant from Colombia not only was in an unfamiliar place with few friends and support outside of his family, but he spoke very little English
In stepped DC SCORES.
Enrolled at Oyster-Adams Middle School, joining DC SCORES was a no-brainer for Sebastian, an already talented soccer player. In the program, Sebastian found much more than a soccer team. He received consistent support in his learning of English, mentors in his coaches, and positive friends in his teammates. In just one year, Sebastian blossomed into a leader ready for his next step.
"They prepared me both physically and mentally for the challenges that high school provides," Sebastian said of his coaches.
Sebastian strengthened his relationships with coaches and peers the spring before high school during DC SCORES summer camp.
And a couple of months later Sebastian not only earned a place on Wilson High School's varsity team, he also joined an Arlington Soccer Association travel team in neighboring Virginia.
Playing year-round for his new teams meant committing an unprecedented amount of time and energy to soccer. Practices were three days a week at a field 20 minutes away in Arlington. Sebastian, however, maintained an even keel, splitting his focus evenly between academics and soccer and leaning on many of the lessons learned in DC SCORES to not get too distraught after a loss or a difficult school experience.
Then, midway through his junior year, an even greater challenge was presented. Sebastian was offered enrollment at West Virginia University as well as a spot on their perennially strong varsity soccer team.
|Sebastian posing after winning the WVU |
"Playing for WVU was great, but it was hard work -- especially managing soccer and academics," he said.
It was for exactly that reason -- the time commitment that playing a Division 1 college sport requires -- that Sebastian decided to shift his focus after his freshman year.
As a civil engineering major at WVU, and with two parents in the same field, the pressure to study outweighed the importance of a college soccer career.
But that hasn't diminished Sebastian's passion for the sport -- he now competes with his best friends on the WVU club team -- and the impact soccer can have on young lives..
For five weeks this summer, Sebastian could be found on the vibrant green soccer field turf at Marie Reed Elementary School leading the soccer component of Summer SCORES camp -- helping to mold young players to follow in his footsteps.
"It's like me seeing myself in those kids," Sebastian said, "and me trying to think about what I needed back then — for me to be a better person today."
It's been a circuitous route for Sebastian, but he is doing exactly what he always wanted to: serving the community and continuing his passion for soccer.