The César Chávez Futbol Academy: Growing Student Athletes Rooted in Community, Social Justice, and Hope

What if every child of color had the opportunity to access higher education using soccer, social justice, and confidence to build the path

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

The Cesar Chavez Futbol Academy blossomed out the Cesar Chavez Library in East Salinas after a group of children were caught playing soccer inside the library. During the 2010 World Cup little ones used free library internet access to watch soccer matches because they did not have access to a television at home. Staff learned children could not afford to play and offered to cover 100% of the costs if students could maintain strong grades and commit to long term civic engagement in return. Students were given all equipment, jerseys, and supplies at no cost in addition to free registration, travel, and academic tutoring with their CCFA participation. Student athletes are expected to maintain a 3.0 and complete community service with their academy teammates and families in return for biweekly training with college athletes, and small group and individual tutoring from university students and faculty. We quickly saw grades rise, confidence build, and relationships grow across generation, gender, and educational level because every CCFA member has a role to play. From hiring local student athletes to working with parents, the academy soon became a family where soccer was the founding idea, but education, and community engagement became the beautiful unexpected outcomes.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • California

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Salinas, California, Soledad, California, Greenfield, California, Gonzalez, California, Chular, California, Prunedale, California.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We understand students of color are less likely to complete high school, have higher rates of incarceration, and in the Salinas community continue to lose their lives to gang related homicide every year. Salinas youth experience a set of socioeconomic hardships that impact their capacity to succeed academically and CCFA has incentivized the pathway to higher education and a commitment to social justice using soccer as the foundational piece. Many of our student athletes are first generation and need additional academic support which we can provide working collaboratively with local student athletes and university staff from our community. With solid relationships rooted in local knowledge we can better build not only literacy skills, but strong generational relationships that allow for our students to build self worth and confidence that moves from the soccer field into the classroom.

The César Chávez Fútbol Academy

Our philosophy and approach centers around a common belief young people in our community have choices to make in how they define their lives, and recognize soccer is a foundational piece of how many can build confidence and the skills to earn their spot at universities and college campuses throughout the nation. CCFA proudly honors the name of the Academy’s visionary, Cesar Chavez, who believed education and civic engagement built from the community up can transform systems and life outcomes for those who learn to think critically and engage with the world around them.

CCFA leadership is well aware of the educational and social climates in which our children and families experience their lives, and because of that understand without patience and an unwavering sense of love and commitment there cannot be a positive transformational shift in their lives. We believe in being present in all aspects of our student athletes lives from attending graduation, to being at their side through immigration or judicial struggle. It is our expectation that from leading by example our athletes will grow into young men and women with a strong sense of empathy and understanding of social justice that will allow them to think critical and become agents of change in the world around them 

In 2015 our children saw 40 men in their community lose their lives to gang violence, saw their city make the number two spot on the Forbes most uneducated cities list, and continue to watch their parents live below the poverty line working strenuous hours in the fields. CCFA works to deliberately push back on this narrative through education and awareness, by building academic skills and cultural pride, we believe the pursuit of social justice, with soccer as a foundational motivator, will allow our community youth to change their home into the neighborhoods they want to see for their own future. 

Our student athletes are strong in the classroom, receive mentorship on and off the soccer field, are active participants in local government and equity initiatives, and part of a family that has allowed hundreds of young boys and and girls of color to realize their capacity to define their life trajectory with a sense of audacious hope and love. 

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Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Higher Education Racial Equity

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Children born and raised in underrepresented communities of color face larger obstacles in their lifetime. CCFA is completely free of cost with the understanding our student athletes are the children of migrant field workers and living in homes with multiple families, where often times food is a scarcity. We recognize to get on the soccer field there is an expectation they perform in the classroom and offer weekly bilingual tutoring from university faculty and staff who live in the same community they call home. We understand the conditions of their lives are impacted by local politics and involve them in community policy decision making. Our role extends into their lives from funding immigration support and navigating the judicial system.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

CCFA has successfully hosted free biweekly community clinics to give children throughout the Salinas community the opportunity to learn the complexities of soccer from college level athletes, a rigorous physical experience, and most importantly a cost free point of access into something they love. At these clinics boys and girls of all ages, from 4 to 16 years old, may be taught the fundamentals of the game, but also witness moral values and life lessons through the game of soccer led by young men and women from their own community who model that behavior. Our generational model allowed teenagers to take on leadership roles and coach our youngest students. We held weekly academic tutoring and maintained an average 3.0 GPA across the academy. We are in the process of finalizing the naturalization of two academy members, and completed over 50 community service hours per academy member.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

CCFA had been maintained primarily through volunteer support at its inception, however as the program grew it was recognized by foundations as key to youth development and community safety. CCFA received grants from the Community Foundation, Monterey County and was invited and awarded funding from the David&Lucille Packard Foundation to participate in the Salinas Youth Initiative. CCFA drafted a 3 year fund development plan to sustain resources.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

While there are a variety of platforms and methods to address youth development, CCFA is unique in its scope of services which directly addresses education, community violence, civic engagement, language, culture, and social justice. From academic monitoring and tutoring that is supported by university students and faculty, to fitness trainings from college athletes, CCFA has redefined wrap around services for students of color in underrepresented communities. CCFA looks to our student athletes dreams to guide our work and has become more than a project, but way of life for our CCFA family.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

With education comes a sense of knowledge and capacity to think critically that allows our young people to actively participate in the design of their future. Youth culture is a valid and engaging key to uplift in our education models in order to ensure our children's well being is in alignment with their own hopes, wishes, and wants. Exploring culture and the arts allows for our youngest community members to find and develop their voice which in the end will be their power. We must set high expectations to meet the aspirations of our youth, but they just be at our side in that conversation.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email
  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation

Program Design Clarity

a. Our main beneficiary community are the Latino children and families in East Salinas, Soledad, Chular, King City, Castroville, and Greenfield. b./c. We host biweekly soccer trainings in East Salinas, weekly academic tutoring sessions, and participate monthly in community events and resource fairs. d. Our services are delivered by local student athletes and university faculty who lives, work, and love in the East Salinas area. We are deliberate in hiring staff who have walked the streets and experiences the same triumphs and trials as the children and families we intend to serve.

Community Leadership

Without feedback from the families, our mission and purpose loses its core value, to serve the needs and support our student athletes in the attainment of their dreams. We survey all parents at the end of soccer clinics, and debrief everything from practice trainings to our academic tutoring sessions with our student athletes themselves. We have learned young folks often times feel more comfortable in the anonymity of the technology and texts.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

The reality for our group is they are brown, they are young men living in poverty, and the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement is a key reflection of the reality of their worlds. We are intentional in open, honest, and critical conversations with our student athletes and their parents about the state of violence not only at home, but across the country and how it is practiced now and historically with law enforcement. The truth protects naivety.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Hiring local college student athletes who speak the same language, grew up in the same streets, and attended the same schools as our children and their families has been incredibly profound. We have built a relationship using soccer as the foundation that has opened up communication across generations, and between different educational levels of attainment. Purpose has been found through connection and a shared love for soccer and knowledge.

Leadership Story

The original intention of CCFA was to provide nothing more than free soccer to those who could not afford it. Over time we learned the reasons folks could not afford it was an outcome of a flawed system, one that required English to be successful. The world our children lived in was a white and Western in design, so we made sure to hire faces who looked like our families who succeeded speaking 2 languages and who navigate not only their neighborhood streets, but hallways of higher education. We watched families open up and ask for more than soccer cleats, they found hope in learning together.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Community Foundation Monterey County, Neighborhood Grant Recipient California State University Monterey Bay, Student Service Learning Award David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Salinas Youth Initiative Participant

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 50%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 25%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 0%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 25%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 50%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 0%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 25%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 25%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 25%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 50%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 25%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 25%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 50%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%


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