City in the Community’s Night Leagues is giving dozens of Flushing High School students the chance to shine at soccer

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On a Saturday evening in January, almost 30 Flushing High School students walked into their school’s gymnasium, kitted out in soccer gear. Those students took part in an evening of free soccer programming delivered by New York City FC coaches, who represent the Club’s charity foundation, City in the Community.

This wasn’t just a one-off event. The evening marked the launch of City in the Community’s weekly Night Leagues at Flushing High School, serving youth aged 15-18 in the borough of Queens.Official Solar Partner of the Club, EmPower Solar, is serving as the primary partner for the new program.

The initiative not only focuses on soccer. This program provides these students with access to professional development opportunities, including mentorship and resources to improve their career and college readiness. Since that first week of programming, the program has continued to grow.

“We’re in the soccer hotbed of Flushing and it’s incredible to see the commitment of the kids. We’ve already had to expand from 30 to 40 students. It’s a group of players that loves the sport and is committed to soccer,” says Bailee Eagin, New York City FC’s Senior Manager of Community Development. “The city deems 5pm to 9pm on Saturday nights a high crime time. So, this is an opportunity to provide a safe space for these students. It gives them a chance to socialize and connect under a roof that’s safe.”

“Empower is in our name so everything we try to do is through empowering our local community, including empowering our local youth with opportunities,” said Matt Diiorio, EmPower Solar’s Chief Marketing Officer. “It’s really important for us to give back to those who take care of us.”

Night Leagues will run for two hours every Saturday evening throughout 2024, providing 45 weeks of programming. The students participate in two hours of soccer, which includes drills to develop their techniques before they’re divided into teams and participate in fun small-sided games.

“Having the opportunity to play in New York City FC’s Night Leagues is an amazing experience,” says 16-year-old Gabriela Butron, who is one of the program’s regular participants. “I think I’m most excited about the family that we’ve built. The first day we started playing, we were just trying to get to know each other. I feel like we’ve built a bond together and we now play like a family. I think it’s all just for the love of the game.”

View photos from Night Leagues at Flushing High School:

Some of the community coaches involved in the program at Flushing High School are themselves from Queens and are committed to engaging youth in the sport they love. On a recent Saturday evening, the school’s gymnasium was opened to members of the media and elected officials to experience what Night Leagues is all about.

New York City Councilmember Sandra Ung, who represents Flushing, attended the evening and spoke to the students about the importance of engaging in sports initiatives like Night Leagues. Ung is herself a graduate of Flushing High School.

“I want all of you to know that you’re very fortunate to have New York City Football Club running this program here,” said Councilmember Sandra Ung. “Through this experience you’re learning things like participation and teamwork. No matter what happens in the future, just remember to come back to Flushing High School where it all started.”

City in the Community’s mission is to increase access to safe, healthy playing spaces for youth throughout the five boroughs.The organization does this primarily by developing fields and delivering programming that provides coaching and mentorship opportunities, geared towards developing leadership skills and promoting health and wellbeing.

Over the past 10 years, City in the Community has served over 30,000 New York City youth, established programming in 78% of communities across the five boroughs, and created 60 free spaces to play. Now that the Night Leagues initiative is up and running at Flushing High School, the plan is to use this as a model for other neighborhoods and continue to expand City in the Community’s free programming across even more parts of New York City.

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