- For Carlos Alvarez the future once looked dim. In his East Los Angeles neighborhood, poverty, drug abuse and gang violence were rampant. Many of the teens in the area had cut short their schooling and Alvarez seemed headed for a similar end.
- But through his skill on a soccer field, and the support of the LAFC Foundation, the 20-year-old turned his life in a better direction. Alvarez raised his grades and scored high enough on the SATs to gain admission to the University of Connecticut, whose soccer team perennially ranks among the best in the college game. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, Alvarez also earned coveted invitations to join both countries' under-20 national teams. He chose to represent the U.S.
- Alvarez is testimony to the LAFC Foundation's success in helping children and teens from poor, underserved areas. The Pasadena-based organization provides scholarships for talented players who would otherwise not have been able to afford training. It donates uniforms and equipment and builds fields that become community magnets where families can access important healthcare, social and educational services. The Foundation's initiatives span the U.S., Africa and Latin America.
- Outstanding inner city soccer clubs are rare in Los Angeles, where practice fields are limited and new land for building soccer facilities is expensive. To attend the best training in the area, Alvarez took a bus or found a ride twice weekly for the 45-minute trip to LAFC practices in Pasadena or La Canada. The club has won wide praise for its player development programs, which have sent more than 100 players to Division I college teams since the late 1980s. Alvarez drew rave reviews from college coaches for his flair in scoring and setting up goals. "He's creative," says Ted Chronopoulos, LAFC's vice president of soccer operations. "He has imagination that others don’t have."
- But Alvarez was also struggling on standardized tests. LAFC Foundation founder Don Sheppard believed that his organization had an obligation not only to help players excel on the field but academically. Sheppard arranged for weekly tutoring and Alvarez scored high enough on the SAT to qualify for an athletic scholarship. Last year, Alvarez led Connecticut with 11 assists and added three goals as the team ranked among the top 20 college teams and qualified for the NCAA Championship. SoccerAmerica named him to its freshman All America team. "I've achieved what I wanted to in soccer and school,” Alvarez says. “LAFC helped me. Their first priority is education."