Thirty years ago when I entered middle school in Pavilion, NY, nearly everyone living in and around this teeny tiny town simply went to Pavilion Central School. It was easy. There were no applications, auditions, choices, etc…. There was one exception; students with a desire to play football headed west. This particular segment of the population became Catholic overnight, paid the tuition and attended Batavia Notre Dame. At the time Notre Dame was known for its football team; Pavilion didn’t have a team. This was not an academic decision as the academics were comparable.
In the Rochester City School District, kids with a strong passion to play fútbol, a.k.a. soccer, may follow a similar path to World of Inquiry School ( WOIS) #58 - minus the tuition, plus the school choice process. WOIS is a highly sought after expeditionary Learning School with a high caliber soccer team called the Griffins. Their team photo looks like the United Nations of soccer. Kids from all over the city are on the team, representing many nationalities and speaking multiple languages. It’s rumored that teammates provide occasional translation as needed, which doesn’t surprise me as a handful of players attend the Rochester International Academy, a program for families resettled in Rochester.
The majority of the players are from WOIS. Three are seniors, two from the South Wedge area. The coaching staff is even diverse – a black man and a white lady. Head coach Deon Rodgers, who grew up in Swillburg, is an East High alum and is a teacher in the RCSD. He filled a coaching void after the season had already begun. It’s unquestionable that there are a number of very talented individuals on the squad. Many gained their skills playing for either RiverFlow or Flower City Soccer Clubs in the city. Under Coach Rodgers’ direction these individuals became a team and represented our district well! For the first time in over 30 years, the Griffins brought home a Section V Soccer Championship for the RCSD and it didn’t stop there. They went on to beat Keshequa in the Section V C1/C2 showdown and conquer Allegany-Limeston in Western Regionals.
At the state tournament in Middletown NY, the Griffins made it to the finals with a victory over Potsdam only to meet their match against a very large, physical team from Rhinebeck. Losing only 3 seniors from this year’s team and with an 8th grader named to the All Greater Rochester soccer team, we can expect next year to be equally exciting! While listing accomplishments it’s appropriate to note that two team members were Section V players of the week, Jason Cherin was selected as scholar athlete of the week and Coach Rodgers was named Section V Co-Coach of the year. For the students on the WOIS team, soccer just might be the hook that keeps them focused on academics and in attendance. Kids that aren’t making the grade aren’t eligible to play; if a student isn’t in school, no after-school activities are allowed. When these kids graduate high school, and if Coach Rodgers has any say in it they will, it just might be appropriate for soccer to take some of the credit. Just for a moment, forget about test scores, graduation rates, and poverty that result in a lot of negative press for the RCSD.
Think about these issues as challenges the district faces given all of the community challenges that are present. In my opinion, these community issues are a root cause of the educational woes and well beyond the control of the schools. So set this all aside for a moment and focus on the positive. Dr. Vargas, thank you for investing in arts, athletics and extra-curricular activities at the district level and on individual school campuses. I recognize, as I’m sure many others do, that this is not being done at the expense of but rather in conjunction with academics.