After three months of work, the new soccer pitch for our Beacon Program (based at East Side Community High School) was opened with great flair and fanfare on June 10, 2015. The pitch represents a culmination of more than six years of work from East Side's Principal Mark Federman and our Director of After-School Programs in Manhattan, Monique Flores.
As our joint soccer team succeeded, the number of young people who wanted to join skyrocketed, and we desperately needed a better place to practice, train and play. With hard work from Federman and Flores, we joined together with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the New York Red Bulls to fund and build this incredible pitch.
Yesterday's official opening ceremony featured local residents, our Beacon/East Side soccer team, New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez, and representatives from University Settlement, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and the New York Red Bulls - including two star players!
Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver (NYC Parks and Recreation) started the opening celebration, sharing why the project was so special to him: "I love that this project has been specifically designed for the kids and has successfully turned a dusty lot into a beautiful, state-of-the-art space for active recreation." He joked about the amazing transformation before sharing his own personal thoughts on the importance of parks: "This space also provides a safe space for children to play, while also helping them stay active and healthy. "Sports, as you all know, teach children lessons that they can carry with them throughout their entire lives. This project is a wonderful investment in our youth, our parks, and our city."
Our very own Monique Flores (pictured left with East Side's Principal Mark Federman) expressed her gratitude and excitement, especially for the kids and families. "The last and most important thank you of all is to you young people out there, and your supportive families. You inspire us to do more and to make things possible for you."
Joseph Stetson, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the New York Red Bulls, also mentioned how this field could be a source of community building for the team: "I'm confident that one day, you will be inspired to do special things for this community and give back to the next generation. And for everyone here in attendance today, that will be our true measure of success." After finishing his speech, Stetson provided some soccer supplies to Principal Federman to get things started on the pitch!
Monique and our VIPs laid the final pieces of the pitch and New York Red Bulls players Connor Lade and Andrew Jean-Baptiste helped Beacon/East Side star players have a kickoff. The afternoon's celebrations closed with our own Coach Louis overseeing the inaugural game.
University Settlement is ecstatic that this years-long dream of providing a safe place for our Beacon participants to play has finally come to fruition. We're grateful to the many partners who made this work possible, and can't wait to see the amazing soccer skills of our team!