HOPKINTON – About 3,500 miles away, 10 children split into two teams donning orange and yellow jerseys and sent a soccer ball back and forth between white-painted boundaries.
Friday marked the first session of a new youth soccer camp in Marrakesh, Morocco. To bring that program to life, Simon Rutter, a 17-year-old incoming senior at Hopkinton High School, collaborated with Michael Holly, 17 of Grapevine, Texas. Both teens are spending summer abroad at the Center for Language and Culture in Marrakesh, studying Arabic as recipients of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship.
The two teens created the camp, after students in the program were tasked to create a project that involved community outreach. They realized how rampant fans of soccer that Moroccans are, saying the cafes are routinely packed with fans.
“We wanted to take this project a couple steps further… the love of soccer in Morocco is unbelievable,” said Rutter.
Rutter, who is in his second year of varsity soccer at Hopkinton High, and Holly spent the last two weeks creating infrastructure for the soccer program, identifying students who could step in as leaders and raising $6,600 of a $10,000 goal.
The program will aim to have at least 25% to 50% of its attendees be from a nearby orphanage called Maison de l’Engfant Bab Ghmat. They will also hold all-girls games and all-girls tournaments, said Rutter, noting that there’s limited opportunities for women to play soccer in Morocco.
“It’s dedicated to making sure that people in unfortunate circumstances and people who do not have the same opportunities – like women, in this circumstance – have equal if not more opportunity to engage,” said Rutter.
When they leave Morocco on Wednesday, the director of the school will work with teachers and students to coordinate tournaments between classes, weekend events and prizes. The goal of the program is to have 80 games per year and scholarships given to underprivileged students who clearly demonstrate leadership skills, sponsored by donations.
The National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship is a dual-funded program from the Department of State and Department of Defense. The scholarship fully funds eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages, such as Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Korean and Persian.
Participants spend a summer or academic year studying the language, while immersed in the culture and day-to-day life of the host country. Rutter said he wanted to learn Arabic due to an interest in pursuing a career in international business, having already studied Chinese at Hopkinton High since his freshman year.
“Knowing both Arabic and Chinese would be huge for me,” said Rutter.
For college, Rutter said he would like to attend the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at University of Pennsylvania, saying the thought of that program has “inspired me to be a conscious global citizen.” With the amount of money raised for the soccer program so far, Rutter said the program has enough funds for at least four years.
“It’s been incredible,” said Rutter on getting the program off the ground.
For more information on the camp, visit Rutter’s GoFundMe page.
Zane Razzaq writes about education. Reach her at 508-626-3919 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @zanerazz.