Here at Advanced AV, we pride ourselves on our commitment to supporting our people, and part of that support involves recognizing them for the amazing things they do outside of work. Recently, we profiled Jason Holbrook, an account executive who encourages healthy kids and healthy families by managing a youth running program. This month, we’ve got another coach and mentor to recognize: Gerald Savage, Service Coordinator, coaches at-risk high school students at Kensington Soccer Club, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization helping to serve one of the poorest and most underserved communities in America.

Kensington Soccer Club was founded in 2009. It was a product of the vision of Kensington High School teacher Jim Hardy, who wanted to give students safe, structured activities during the time school was out. The club’s core values then are their core values now: leadership, teamwork, and community.

“The club now uses soccer to help empower young children to be active in their communities, avoid the dangers of a life lived on the streets, and to live a full and healthy lifestyle,” Gerald said.

A coach since 2010 and board member since 2011, Gerald says he takes pride in not only his two tournament victories, two district championships, and the club’s first-ever trophy, but also the relationships he forms with his players.

“As a mentor, my greatest victory has been seeing each player I’ve coached graduate from high school in an area where less than 50 percent receive their high school diploma,” Gerald said. “To me, coaching these kids gives me an indescribable feeling. Even though these children are not my sons and daughters, I have a love for them like a father would. When they succeed, I succeed, and even if we fail, as long as we gave our best effort, then we didn’t really fail.”

One of those special relationships Gerald formed was with a player named Nelson. Nelson had a difficult home life with no viable male figure in his periphery, a mother who worked, yet struggled financially, and an older brother who had problems with the law. When he came to Gerald about participating in the program in 2013, he didn’t have much soccer experience but made up for that in enthusiasm and hard work. By 2014, he was the team captain.

Nelson was no longer on Gerald’s team during the 2015 season because he made the traveling team thanks to his positive attitude and commitment to the sport. The two still saw each other regularly, though, so Gerald got wind that Nelson had been invited to Los Angeles as part of a competition at school. Nelson—who had never before left the city of Philadelphia—couldn’t afford the trip.

Gerald, his wife, and the president of the club paid for Nelson to visit Los Angeles with his peers so he would have the opportunity to fly on a plane and get a taste of life outside his city. There was one stipulation, though—Nelson had to get a picture of himself in front of the ocean (see below) and another in front of Santa Monica Pier.

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“It made me incredibly happy for him to be able to experience all this,” Gerald said.

Earlier this year, Nelson earned money to travel to another far-off school activity by helping Gerald work on his house. The two plastered walls and painted, and Nelson learned valuable skills like how to operate power tools, use a tape measure, and calculate square footage.

“I often talk to my players about their education, and he was no exception. He would be the first person in his family to go to college, but he was nervous,” Gerald said. “He’ll always be like a little brother to me, and I want nothing but the best for him. I told him it’s easy to give up when you’re 18 years old, and you just don’t want to deal with school any longer, but he would see the benefits of pushing through one day.”

In August, Nelson started school for nursing and spent a few weeks out of the summer working in a doctor’s office.

This heartwarming example is just one of many stories Gerald has to tell about his experiences coaching and mentoring through the Kensington Soccer Club. To learn more about the club and what it means to the community it serves, visit KensingtonSoccer.org.

The organization relies on generous donations of time and funds to support its initiatives—specifically, Gerald reports they’re currently seeking volunteers, as many existing volunteers are overworked. If you’re interested in helping in any way, visit here to take action.

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First time traveling to a suburban tournament (also the first time many of the players ever left the city of Philadelphia)

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