Nov 20, 2022
MILWAUKEE, Wis (CBS 58) -- Five childhood friends, all from Guadalajara, Mexico, who grew up in Milwaukee and were part of the same soccer leagues, came together in 2019 with one common vision.
Favian Gonzalez is one of the co-founders and coaches of Street Dreams Academy, and he said he recalled transportation and finances being a constant issue among him and his friends. That is why they made it their mission to create a soccer program that would be more accessible to the community.
"We were fortunate enough that we had people to provide us those opportunities, whether it was our coaches or other parents or our parents sometimes, when they were able to, but it wasn't an easy thing to do," he said.
Their mentor and community partner, Quentin Prince, oversees the nonprofit youth development program at Journey House on Milwaukee's South Side. He said a lot of people who are not into sports don't realize all of the benefits that come with joining a sports team.
"So you've got the leadership, you've got the comradery, you've got the human development, you've got the communication skills," he said.
Prince said that the problem now-a-days is that there's a heavy emphasis on private sports clubs.
"Parents want to get their kids into these clubs because they have aspirations and dreams of seeing them compete at the collegiate or the professional level, which is great if they can get to that point, awesome, but then what happens is, it doesn't allow access for kids who want to participate in it because they're boxed out by price," said Prince.
An average family pays thousands of dollars for their child to play in a soccer club.
At Street Dreams Academy, the cost for the older kids who play in the U-13 - U-15 is a $500 annual fee; the cost for those in the U-12 and below is $350. Payment installments are also offered.
The season normally runs from August until late June or July. The athletes spend 2-3 times a week practicing until game day which is normally over the weekend.
Elizabeth Perez's sons are a part of the academy, her older son Diego has been in it from the very beginning.
"My older son, I would say, he is definitely more social than he was, so I see a big difference, he looks at soccer as like his for-real life," she said.
Like many Latino families, soccer is more than just the game of the community. For Perez's family, it's a part of their lifestyle as she and her husband both play in wreck leagues.
In fact, 'el fútbol' is considered the sport of the world. Soccer has the power of paralyzing countries and uniting all corners of the globe, especially when the World Cup kicks off Nov. 20.
Many kids aspire to one day join the big leagues and with the recent announcement that Milwaukee will be home to the newest expansion pro-soccer franchise in the USL Championship (which is the second-highest tier) in 2025, many might be one step closer to achieving their dream.
Street Dreams Academy promises to offer that competitive environment, awaiting their official 501(c)3 nonprofit permit early next year--to get sponsors who will help compensate coaches who are current volunteers, help pay for uniforms and other rental expenses.
Cesar Castillo is another founder and coach, who opened up about how he almost made it as a professional soccer player. He said that at 23 years old, he was close to signing a contract with a team in El Salvador.
"I trained a pre-season with the first division team, they're called Santa Tecla in El Salvador...because of certain citizenship reasons, it was not possible to sign," he said.
Castillo said that the experience helped him realize the true meaning of sacrifice and all the hard work that goes into it.
"Our hope is to bring people together, to bring out Latino community together, to create a better environment for our youth but also to be able to bring people from different backgrounds together as well," he added.