Students from the Ryogoku Soccer Academy are creating change in their community, one project at a time. They presented their Passion Projects at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce last Friday.
“Students choose the topic with a given set of criteria,” said Coach Emily Hopkins. “For this term, students focused on a real world problem and found a real solution. They had to take that idea and then connect how they could help the community.”
Projects ranged from spotlighting the need for increased attention on human trafficking to reducing the waste that goes to area landfills.
“Within our curriculum, we asked the students to take on a real world problem within this community,” Coach Brad Leonard said. “Izac very quickly found one and very quickly got to work. So we invited you all here today to hear from Izac about his real problem, his solution now and his solution for the future.”
Surrounded by bins of recyclable glass, Izac explained that the bin will encourage households, park visitors and even restaurants to recycle their glass. Nearly 28 billion glass bottles and jars go to landfills each year, Izac said, and only 32% of glass in America gets recycled.
“The reason I chose this is because I practice here almost every day, and every time I see glass on the field and off the field, in the parking lots and that’s not safe for people to play here,” Izac said.
The Ripple Glass bin is stationed at the 9th and Van Brunt Soccer Fields in the parking lot.
“Working with the students and staff have been an absolute dream come true here and kids like Izac, our true Ripple Makers we call them, so it’s been an honor to work with these kiddos and the entire staff and we’re so glad to be here and their passion is just contagious,” said Morgan Henderson from Ripple Glass. “We’re always looking for new placement, so if you guys think of any other place that could be a good option, you let us know for sure.”
Each semester, students choose one project to focus on. They spend months researching the problem, analyzing statistics, and focusing on how they can make change.
Eighth grader Abdullahi is working to help the homeless in his community with hygiene products and haircuts. He invited someone to give haircuts to homeless people at Independence Boulevard Christian Church on Monday evening, June 20 during the meal giveaway.
“The problem is, homeless people don’t have a clean environment to stay in or live in, so that’s why I want to give out a free hygiene pack to the homeless so they can keep themselves clean for a little while,” Abdullahi said. “My end goal is to build homeless shelters for homeless people so they can have a clean environment and also have a safe place to stay and get their life situations.”
Nearly 1,800 people are on the streets of Kansas City on any given night, Abdullahi said he found in his research.
“I was scrolling through YouTube and I saw a video of a person helping out a homeless person, and I just saw the smile on their face,” Abdullahi said. “And I was like, ‘I should do that too.’”
Seventh grader Ruben’s project is to cut down on food waste, and he’s working with local fast food restaurants like Burger King to make it happen.
“My solution is getting food from places like Burger King and either recycling it for compost, or if the food is good to eat, I can give it to homeless shelters,” Ruben said.
George has been working on a project to end racial inequality, which he said he has experienced in his own life.
“My approach to it is going to be to pass a law, and something that people can do is I have a pamphlet they can fill out so they can call their representatives,” George said. “It has a script so they know what to say if they get nervous.”
George aspires to be a professional soccer player, and will use his platform to help end racial inequality.
“Missouri and Kansas are some of the most racist states,” George said. “Considering the fact that I live in this area, it’s a good place to start.”
Sixth grader Diego’s passion is ending drug use in teens.
“The reason why I was inspired by it is because when I come into this community, I see sick kids, and they don’t look as healthy as they usually would, and most of the reason why is because they’re on drugs,” Diego said. “That gets me sad because there’s a high risk that they might not reach their potential in life.”
He eventually wants to open up a treatment center in the neighborhood that focuses on recovery and rebuilding relationships with family. While he knows prevention is important, it’s a very broad subject.
“Just to start off in my community, I would like to start with the support side of it because sometimes kids get on drugs because they don’t have a family, which is sad, and they may get depressed.”
Diego talked to a D.A.R.E. officer who helped him understand drug addiction by comparing it to how kids can crave sugar, but to the extreme.
Emilio’s passion is to help homeless people in his neighborhood stay healthy through physical activity. He’s hosting an exercise class at the Concourse on June 23 at 10 a.m. to teach homeless people good exercises to stay healthy.
“I just saw homeless people just sitting around just waiting for something to happen, but if they just keep doing that they can die because they’re not moving around,” Emilio said. “It can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, and that would just kill them because it’s attacking their heart. So I want them to work out, move around, so that they can get back on their feet and try to find a job.”
Eric is working on responsible consumption of plastic bags. He noticed stores hand many of them out to carry purchases, but they’re harmful for the environment. He’ll present his idea to San Antonio Carniceria y Tortilleria next week.
“The solution I found out was to use these reusable bags, which are not only eco friendly, but are recyclable,” Eric said, showing off his reusable totes. “You can wash them, you can fold them, you can put heavier stuff into them.”
Dael’s project focuses on cleaning up litter around local waterways.
“The problem is that there are no trash bins where the kids are, or maybe some kids think it’s cool just to drop it,” Dael said. “But I feel like it’s even cooler if we grab it, throw it in the trash.”
The team practices at Berkley Riverfront often, and Dael sees people picking up trash. He wants them to have somewhere to put it, so he’s advocating for trash and recycling bins. He also encourages people to invest in trash grabbers or stabbers so they can save their back, avoid germs and be more efficient.
On June 22, he’ll host a cleanup at Berkley Riverfront at 10 a.m.
Isaias’ project focuses on clean drinking water in public spaces.
“When people were walking around, like homeless or just people running, jogging, walking, like doing the exercise, they could either have a water fountain on the side to drink from, to refill a water bottle from, just to be healthy and have clean water,” Isaias said.
He refills his reusable water bottle at least three times per day to do his small part to reduce the 2.5 million plastic water bottles Americans throw away every hour. He also noted that water fountains should be sanitized regularly to avoid spreading germs.
“I don’t think they really understood the depths of some of these issues, and we couldn’t really accomplish that in just a couple of months,” Leonard said. “So as they begin to see more and be in the community, meet more people, they realize there’s way more bigger issues.”
The year-round school has nine students, but will welcome more in July. For more information about the students’ Passion Projects, visit ryogokusocceracademy.org.