Observations from the Sidelines

This past week I was with the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 Soccer Camp – a five-day camp with about 60 kids from the surrounding area entering 5th through 12th grade. These kids come from migrant families, nearly all of whom immigrated from Mexico or other Latin American countries. Soccer camp is only available to those who have participated in an LIU programs in the past (such as ESL) and to those who are registered for the upcoming Summer School. Despite spending a week with the kids, I still felt somewhat like an outsider. I don’t speak Spanish, I’m not from Adams County, and I come from a different socioeconomic background. Yet I was still able to learn and make observation about the camp and about how the kids interact with one another.

As a non-profit funded primarily through grants given by the Pennsylvanian government, the LIU can only spend money on things that are deemed educational. What is considered educational can be somewhat unclear as I discovered during the camp’s field trip to Harrisburg. The LIU was allowed to use grant money on a ferry ride but was not able to buy tickets for a minor league soccer game since it was considered entertainment rather than educational. Though I understand the state’s desire to focus on education and limit “frivolous” expenses, what qualifies as entertainment seems rather arbitrary. Observing how a soccer game is run (acquiring advertisers, hiring staff, and coordinating the game itself) can be just as educational as a boat ride down the Susquehanna River. I also learned that this reliance on grant money from the state can cause some complications. For example, a few years ago when it took the government of Pennsylvania six months to pass the annual budget, the LIU was unable to receive grant money and was thus forced to take out loans simply to continue providing its services.

Despite these restrictions and challenges, I was encouraged by what seemed to be a cohesive community of migrant children. There seemed to be a bond between them that perhaps stemmed from the fact that are all were first generation Americans and nearly all of them spoke Spanish. There were disagreements at times but for the most part the kids acted as a sort of extend family to one another. For example, after returning late from Harrisburg a few older kids stayed with some younger kids on a dark, drenched street corner despite the fact that the older kids’ parents were already there. They could have left and I really wouldn’t have blamed them if they had. But they waited until all of the younger kids were picked up first. This, along with other interactions during the week, reinforced the idea of a unity built around a shared lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why I felt and will continue to feel like an outsider to this group.

Nate Kumar ’17