|By Mary E. O'Leary, New Haven Register, Conn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Lucky for the Bartoahs,
Mednick, with a small group of friends, has mentored 11 boys on the soccer field and after school on their academics, using the sport as a way to engender confidence that has seen all of them now, seven years later, attending college as freshmen and sophomores.
The young men, whom she has worked with since they were 11- and 12-years old, are either refugees helped through Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in
Among them is Abraham Bartoah, who upon leaving a refugee camp in
Abraham got his first taste of America at the
Recruited to play soccer at
That spring, when she first met the Bartoahs, she got them and another boy she knew through IRIS, Mu'ammar Camara, involved in a recreational co-ed soccer team for fifth- to eighth-graders.
"They were phenomenal. We were undefeated. I think our worse game was an 8-0 victory," Mednick said.
When the program was scheduled to be eliminated the next year, she knew she wanted to find a way to keep them together playing soccer.
Just appointed director of New Haven Youth Soccer, she agreed to take that job only if she could start a spinoff team for the IRIS kids, which is how Elm City Internationals came about.
"Our goal is to really find our kids strengths and really find the resources for them. We do work a lot one on one with them on academics, mentoring and college counseling," Mednick said.
Mednick and her friends would get together with the 11 boys for an hour and half of soccer practice a few times a weeks, particularly from November through April, followed by two hours of tutoring on school work. The boys had access to phone numbers and emails to their mentors and often the school help was one on one or in small groups.
"They could make an appointment at any given time during the week to get personal help on whatever assginment they needed help with," Mednick said. She estimated she put in about 20 hours a week on the program in addition to working either full-time or going to graduate school at
Each spring, Mednick said they would send the kids to more elite teams.
Under this arrangement, Abraham, Andrew, Mu'ammar and
This way, they would get to travel around and be seen by college coaches, Mednick said. "All of these teams come together as showcases. It's really a way of exposing our kids," she said.
"We are not experts in every area, particularly in soccer, so for someone like Abraham, his current coach (at