YALLA San Diego: College is the Goal

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YALLA San Diego: College is the Goal

“I want to be an aerospace engineer because I like airplanes, I like to make stuff.” Dani, age 12, from Guatemala. Dani’s father fled from Iraq to

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“I want to be an aerospace engineer because I like airplanes, I like to make stuff.” Dani, age 12, from Guatemala.

Dani’s father fled from Iraq to Guatemala to escape the military draft in the early 1990’s. There, he met Dani’s mother, a Guatemalan citizen, and had three children. Fearing for their safety in Guatemala, the family travelled by bus through Mexico to the United States. Shortly before they reached the United States border, the family was stopped by Mexican Immigration, rerouted, and forced to spend 7 months in a detention center where “they did nothing, like prison.”

While at the detention center, Dani and his entire family slept on the ground with a thin blanket. One of Dani’s most vivid memories was having “meat for breakfast, meat for lunch, and meat for dinner.” Once the family obtained refugee status, the first food Dani ate in the US was his Grandmother’s kabobs. It was the best meal he ever had.

Dani spent last summer preparing for his future career as an engineer. Through YALLA and Fab Lab, he participated in two different “Tech Camps” where he learned to code, use a 3D printer, and made his own walking robot.DSC_0251

Dani plays “the 6″ also known as the holding midfielder, on YALLA’s 2002 boys team. Interestingly, his sister Amira and brother Matti also played the “6” on their respective YALLA teams. Dani is excited for the upcoming fall season.

 About YALLA

YALLA (Youth and Leaders Living Actively) is on a mission to remove social and economic barriers that confront refugee and immigrant youth who live in the United States. They believe that without barriers, talent rises.

One of the only nonprofits of its kind, YALLA combines the promise of education and the passion of soccer to inspire refugee and immigrant youth to achieve a college education. Since 2010, they have served over 1,200 youth, ages 7-18, resulting in better school attendance, academic achievement, and literacy scores as compared to their refugee peers.

In the past two years, 88% of YALLA’s high school seniors gained acceptance into four-year universities. Despite war, despite poverty, despite social and language barriers, YALLA members will go to college.


Ryan Shera serves as the Soccer Director for a youth soccer club unlike any other. His players come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Mexico, Sudan, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. His players have lost loved ones and suffered unspeakable trauma. His players have lived in refugee camps and detention centers. His players have traveled thousands of miles to escape war, violence, and poverty, and rebuild their lives in the United States. His players’ families’ median house-hold income is $15,000 below the poverty line in San Diego. His players’ journies are just beginning.

“My club is YALLA,” stated Shera. “YALLA’s mission is to help war refugee and immigrant youth rebuild their lives with the ultimate goal of college admission. YALLA uses soccer as the hook to bring kids into its academic program. The academic program utilizes the latest education software to improve the English literacy of our student-athletes. YALLA provides a comprehensive college-prep program and leadership and character development programs. Our outcomes are legitimate: in just 4 months, nearly 80% of our K-8 scholar-athletes improved their reading comprehension by at least one grade level, and 21 of 22 college-bound seniors got accepted to four-year colleges with an average of $19,000 in scholarships.

“YALLA also provides year-round recreational and competitive level soccer programs. YALLA provides these programs cost-free. Our competitive program competes against the top club teams in San Diego, trains three times a week, plays games on Saturday, and in-house Street Soccer on Sundays. 80 players participate in our competitive program while 160-200 participate in our recreational program.


“I am committed to providing a first-class soccer experience for YALLA’s players including development, competition, and curriculum to rival any pay-to-play club. YALLA’s players cannot afford to play for even the least expensive clubs, none of which include the academic, literacy, college-prep, leadership, and character development programs we provide. YALLA also trains our older scholar-athletes in leadership development and soccer coaching, empowering them to serve as mentors and coaches to YALLA’s younger refugee generations. In this way, YALLA seeks to include and serve the underserved and neglected minority communities.”

In recent years YALLA has relied on grants from the LA84 Foundation and U.S. Soccer Foundation. This year, those grants were allocated elsewhere. YALLA is in dire need of funding. Please help!

If you believe in the following principles, please DONATE NOW to ensure the mission continues:

* You believe soccer can serve as a catalyst for personal and community development.

* You believe the current pay-to-play youth soccer model neglects the poor and under-represented communities.

* You believe the currency of youth soccer should be passion and commitment, not dollars and cents.

* You believe that removing unnecessary barriers to sports and education will benefit our society as a whole.