By Robert Turner, Staff Writer
“Can we play here so the kids can have a safe place to play?” asked Officer Salgado of the Los Angeles Police Department’s 108th Street station. Salgado was addressing Verbum Dei High School Head Soccer Coach Oscar Rosa.
The LAPD operates a program for neighboring Nickerson Garden residents that includes sports, tutoring , mentoring, and other activities to ensure the safety and well-being of the young people. Approximately 30-40 youth in the 8th grade and older participate in the program.
The participants’ grades are checked daily, they have practice everyday, and regularly talk with their mentors. To develop leadership and self-awareness, the officers appoint the captains of the program to take initiative to make sure they teammates maintain above- average grades and have someone with whom they can confide their problems.
Some of the Verbum Dei Eagles sports teams were interested in playing the kids from the neighborhood and getting to know them better. Some of the kids face difficult challenges, so the VDHS soccer team wanted to get close with the kids from Nickerson Garden to help them through their challenging experiences..
The Verbum Dei soccer team and “Nick’s Kids” play a preseason scrimmage to help them get comfortable with each other. Since the Nicks Kids don’t have many players on their team, Rosa said, “We play 9 vs. 9 against the Nicks Kids to make sure they have a fair advantage to display their best ability.”
“The game is not about winning but about learning what we need to fix,” said Rosa.
The Nickerson Garden kids are very honored to be able to compete against the very talented Verbum Dei Eagles.
“Their team is good,” said senior Kevin Parada, who has been playing against [Nick’s Kids] since they first started three years ago. “They have a purpose for what they do and that motivated me to go harder”
The Nicks Kids are faced with adversity, have every day struggles as athletes and students that make them feel like they are not good enough, but they continue to persevere.
“I don’t love my brother and sisters on the team because I have to,” said Francisco Hernandez, a captain of Nick’s Kids and a senior at Jordan High School. “I do it because I truly do; many of us have the same problems, and I help other get past them.”
The game is not just a game, it’s a symbol of the Eagles’ appreciation and recognition of the hard work of the Nick’s Kids.