By Jordan Harirchi
The UNF Honors and Scholars Program and the Sport Management Program have teamed up to raise awareness and resources for refugees in Jacksonville.
The two groups will hold a soccer tournament at 10 a.m. Nov. 19, titled “Kickin’ It for Refugees Soccer Fun Day,” for refugee children. It is at the south field behind the Osprey Crossings residence hall and Lot 17. The event plays a part in getting many Jacksonville refugees acclimated to American culture and raising awareness in the community.
Refugees come to the U.S. from various countries. They receive aid for 90 days from the Resettlement and Placement Program various social service agencies offer. But once that grant is up, the refugees need help getting basic resources. Lutheran Social Services provides additional aid to the refugees through grants aimed toward the refugee youth, Youth and Family Coordinator Gina Federico said.
The agency provides 3- and 5-year grants to refugees ages 5-18 who are enrolled in Duval County Schools. There are 140 active clients between the two grants, Federico said.
The grants give refugees academic assistance in after-school and in-school tutoring. The agency seeks to reduce dropout rates and assist refugees with learning English, Federico said.
“Our goal is for all refugees to go to college,” Federico said. “Any time newly arrived refugees can interact with university students, it gives them hope for the future.”
The UNF Honors program is providing the refugees with that hope as part of their Colloquium volunteer project. The honors freshmen were put into groups to do tasks such as mentoring, coaching soccer, researching, organizing events and fundraising for the refugee children, said Dr. Leslie Kaplan, scholarship coordinator for the honors program.
The goal of the project is to expose refugees to U.S. culture and customs to help make the transition to American society easier, Kaplan said.
The freshmen had Halloween costumes donated and put on a Halloween party for the refugees. They plan to have a Thanksgiving dinner for them after the soccer tournament.
“It’s more of an exchange,” Kaplan said. “Our students are learning about them and their cultures while they are learning about ours.”
The sport management side is solely responsible for the Nov. 19 tournament. Students in the program are required to help with this event to pass their sport management classes.
“This is not an event to just be nicey nicey — it’s a project,” said Dr. Danielle Mincey White, visiting assistant sport management professor.
There are four classes organizing the event: Introduction to Sport Management, responsible for operations of the actual event; Resource Development, responsible for fundraising; Sport Law, responsible for waivers and liability efforts; and Sport Marketing, responsible for advertising and public relations.
White, professor of Introduction to Sport Management, said the venture leading up to Nov. 19 has been fruitful.
The students started with no budget but have managed the various aspects of the event, White said. The students have gathered enough resources to provide cleats, shin guards, balls, cones and uniforms for the refugee children.
Besides fundraisers to cover overhead costs, the students gathered other resources to aid the refugees with basic living necessities such as toiletries, clothing and food. The students want to reach out to not only the Jacksonville community but also UNF.
“We’re trying to get the community involved, and this [university] is a community—it’s a small city,” said William Davis, a sport management major at UNF.
The cost of the event is free, but donations are accepted. The sport management students have set a goal of 200 attendees, but all the parties involved hope more people attend to meet the refugees.