In 2010, Denton ISD recognized there was a demographic change in the student population at Carroll McMath Middle School. There was an increase in second-language learners. Students who felt left out because oftentimes, they couldn’t communicate adequately. Those same students were not just struggling with their relationships in the classroom, but also their grades.
Using soccer as a uniting force, 23 boys with a number of disciplinary referrals and low grades were selected to meet regularly with mentors and practice the game after school. The program is called GOAL: Guys Operating As Leaders
“It was an immediate hit with the kids,” said Chris Ice, Community Engagement Specialist at Denton ISD. "Behavior and grades made a 180-degree turnaround. Other campuses, with similar populations, took notice and the teacher created GOAL Program took off in Denton ISD.”
Quickly, people in the district started hearing about the successful program and a few years later, they made it co-ed.
“What began as one team of 23 boys, now serves 686 students in five, North Texas communities: Denton, Lake Dallas, Little Elm, Lewisville, and Sanger. Currently, we have eight elementary teams, grades 3-5 [co-ed] and 14 middle school teams, grades 6-8 [nine boys’ teams and five girls’ teams],” Ice said.
It’s not just about soccer though, it’s also about teaching students the importance of community.
“They have done a myriad of community service projects including reading to students at pre-K centers, adopt-a-spot clean-up projects, collecting coats for local shelters, tons of food provided for local pantries, working at local animal shelters, assembling bleachers for the Parks and Recreation Dept. in Denton. To qualify in our championship game, each team must complete a service project,” Ice said.
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The GOAL program has helped get program alumni $20,000 in scholarships. They have been featured in several publications. They offer adapted soccer opportunities for students with disabilities. GOAL ensures families in the program get free health services and voter registration for parents.
The best part of the program, it’s all 100-percent free to student participants thanks to volunteers and donations.
GOAL is a nonprofit that will celebrate its 10th anniversary by gearing up for its first All-Star Team to play with area select teams at no charge to the students.