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The Mighty Green
$600 raised
13 contributors
0 days left
Ended Jul 1, 2014
A documentary about a high school soccer miracle in the impoverished, gang-ridden Logan Heights barrio of San Diego. How big are your dreams?

In the summer of 2009, Kyle Hagenburger, now known in the community as “H,” was hired as a history teacher at a brand new charter school called King-Chavez Community High School in downtown San Diego. The school's purpose was to help build up and breathe life into a neglected immigrant-based community. King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools serves the special needs of the kids from Logan Heights, thepoorest and most gang- and crime-infested neighborhood in San Diego. In addition to creating the curriculum for the very first incoming 9th grade class, Kyle had a vision to start a high school soccer program for these at-risk, disenfranchised inner city youth.

Upon holding an introductory soccer camp at a local park for the incoming freshmen that summer of 2009, Kyle realized his vision could become a reality - over twenty kids showed up to play. But the school had no home field. They had very limited funds. Most of the kids had no experience playing organized soccer, and with a school demographic of over 90% Latino, a few of the players did not even speak English; and Kyle speaks no Spanish. But with devotion to his vision and determination to make it happen, Kyle, as program Founder, Director and Head Coach together with the King-Chavez Athletic Director and the young, eager players set out on a mission to build a legitimate competitive high school soccer program from the ground up. Today, the Boys Varsity Vaqueros are renowned in San Diego as the up-and-coming team that won the first three Frontier League Championships in which the team ever competed. This is an unprecedented achievement.

In the first year of the soccer program, there was one boys team and one girls team. Kyle coached the boys and recruited coaches and assistants to work with the teams for free. The boys held their first game on a Friday night under portable generator lights used at construction sites. They played - and beat - Morse High School. It was the first-ever sports related event to take place in Logan Heights. Over 150 people showed up to watch. Passersby stopped and cheered. For the first time in many of their lives, parents were able to see their boys play. Halfway into the season, a school in the heart of Logan Heights agreed to allow the Vaqueros to use the school’s patchy beat-up field as their home turf. This haggard field is now proudly considered home of the Vaqueros. The Vaqueros developed an average crowd of 100 fans at home games. Fans began making signs and banners to wave during games. The Vaqueros have their very own high school cheerleading squad with orange and green cheerleading uniforms and pompoms. In this fourth year, the crowd grew to nearly 200 and has developed cheers, chants, and special songs to call out in support of their Mighty Green Vaqueros.

Gang activity dominates Logan Heights, to which the soccer program quickly fell victim; in the first year of the program, the local gang tagged the teams' goalposts. In the second year, a group of gang members attacked one of the players on his way home from practice one evening, his injuries so severe he ended up in the hospital. The kids in the program are accustomed to living amongst gangs, drugs, and constant criminal activity. Many of them were already on track to the troubles of the barrio, and we have sadly lost a few players to the inducement of street and gang life in Logan. But the soccer program provides another option. It provides daily practices on a real soccer field, haggard as it may be; competitive high school games and tournaments; and the chance to be part of a high school team, a united family, and a movement that has become so much bigger than its individual parts, so much more widely and deeply significant than Kyle had ever imagined.

In the second year of the soccer program, Kyle decided to create a varsity program for both the boys and girls. Because King-Chavez High School was only in its second year and had a student body of only 9th and 10th graders, Kyle knew a varsity program was a risk; varsity teams are typically composed of 11th and 12th graders. But the kids were fired up, and over two-thirds of the school's population showed up for tryouts. Student-athletes began getting their highest grade point averages just so they could play on a team. Kyle had to find more coaches, which meant convincing more people to volunteer their time. With the odds against them - poverty, reliance on public transportation, immigration status issues, inexperience, lack of funding, losing players because their families needed them to contribute financially to the household, and playing against teams that out-sized and out-experienced them - the first-year Boys Varsity Vaqueros won the 2011 Frontier League Championship. College scouts began coming to watch the Varsity Boys play; these coaches are now persistently recruiting from the team.

The Boys Varsity Vaqueros went on to win the 2012 and 2013 Frontier League Championships. They ended their third season as a varsity team with an unrivaled record of 18 wins, 2 ties, and only 1 loss, a shocking and devastating loss that did not come until the CIF Semi-Final, just one game away from taking the CIF Championship. The team created such a pervading buzz among rivaling high school soccer programs in San Diego that local media were compelled to tell the Vaqueros' story. They were featured on NBC 7, Channel 10 News, Fox 5 and on the inside front cover of the sports section in the San Diego Union Tribune. More recently Top Drawer Soccer, Soccer Nation and San Diego Magazine have taken an interest in the Vaqueros' story.

The soccer program became so popular since its inception in 2009 that it is now composed of four teams - both boys and girls Junior Varsity and Varsity teams. Young kids from Logan Heights and siblings of current players show up to practice and tell Kyle they "want to be a Vaquero” and play for him one day. Kyle, his devoted and generous volunteers and the passionate, dedicated players have created a lasting and impactful program, a deeply prideful tradition for this marginalized community. They have created a powerful and permeating school spirit. This is a real-life story of hope and meaningful triumph in the face of crushing odds. This soccer program Kyle has worked so tirelessly for the last four years to create must be continued, and the future players and coaches need to know where it started in order to keep the spirit and tradition alive and strong.

2013 marked the first graduating class of King-Chavez Community High School, which included the boys and girls that started the soccer program and have played since its creation back in 2009. We want these student-athletes and the exceptional Boys Varsity Vaqueros to have something to remind them how truly special they are and what extraordinary feats they have accomplished and are continuing to inspire. Our mission in making this documentary is to provide a tangible, everlasting memento of their excellence, their brilliance, their hard work and amazing talent, and - in the face of tremendous adversity - their unparalleled success. We want to make sure this story lasts. We want it to inspire, uplift, encourage, remind and give strength and hope forever.

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