(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

Mexican soccer star Luz Duarte has two youth World Cups under her belt as well as three World Cup qualifying tournaments.  In October, Duarte helped Mexico qualify for the 2015 World Cup — an impressive resume for someone just 19 years old.

Recently, Duarte signed a contract with the Arizona Strikers of the WPSL. As busy as she is, Duarte always has time for her fans, stopping to give autographs and take pictures, and even traveling thousands of miles away from her home to a small town she had never heard of called Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

A small, diverse, hard-working town known for being the mushroom capital of the world (about 65% of mushrooms consumed come the area),  Kennett Square hosts over 100,000 people at its annual Mushroom Festival, where all of the money raised is donated to charity.

The population of Kennett Square also happens to be 48% Hispanic, or Latino.

The Gifts of Soccer

Behind every athlete there is a human, and behind every human there is a story.

Not even 20 years old, Duarte is still growing as a professional soccer player, but age is just a number. More mature than what her birth certificate says, Duarte gives back to her community consistently with a smile on her face, whether it’s reading books to young fans, or giving words of encouragement to those who need them.

Duarte traveled to Kennett Square in April to meet sponsors for a soccer clinic geared toward young Hispanic girls, which we will be putting on this fall.

During the trip, Duarte took time to sit down and talk to a small group of girls about her experience growing up. Not only did she tell them that her “soccer ball” was the bottom of a two-liter soda bottle wrapped in tape, so that it resembled a soccer ball, but that soccer gave her the freedom to be herself. It also allowed her to live out her dream of being a professional athlete.

(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

(Photo: Ana Aguilera-Juarez)

Duarte spoke to the girls about one of her coaches and mentors — Waldo Jimenez, who helped guide her to the correct path in life and in soccer. He was one of those people who believed in her when others didn’t.

Now, Duarte is stepping into Jimenez’s shoes and taking on the role of “mentor.” After a full day of speaking about confidence and self-love as it relates to soccer, Duarte surprised one of the girls at her indoor soccer game later that night in Kennett Square to cheer her on.

A Need for Sports

Even as recent as 10 years ago, very few Hispanic girls from the area participated in soccer growing up. Currently, that has started to change, but there are still many young girls who don’t participate in the sport either because they don’t have anyone to guide them, or because their parents don’t support the idea of girls playing.

Many Hispanic girls from the area don’t even know that women have the option to play professional soccer. They can tell you who Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are, but they can’t tell you who Monica Ocamp and Luz Duarte are. That’s why this fall, Duarte and I will be teaming up to offer a free soccer clinic for Hispanic girls in the area.

We want girls to see that soccer (or any sport) can be a catalyst for reaching your goals in life. It not only promotes better health and fitness, but it’s a life-vest for the hardships that naturally come off the field for young Hispanic girls.

We have hopes of getting these young girls to dream of something bigger and better, and soccer is the vehicle we’re choosing to use in order to drive the change.