An Arvada man has come up with a way to help students build their self esteem while having fun. He uses something that once changed his life in a positive way.
German Zarate started a youth soccer league that allows third, fourth and fifth graders in Jefferson County to play soccer for free.
"We put together this idea and then engaged six schools, [all] title one [schools], and we ended up 180 children," said Zarate.
The schools are Allendale, Arvada K8, Foster, Lawrence, Secrest and Swanson elementary schools.
"It is a little, mini league for kids in southeast Arvada who may not be able to afford traditional soccer leagues. So, all of our kids get to play for free," said Debra Shirley with Foster Elementary School.
The league is called "SAYS," or Southeast Arvada Youth Soccer. Each team practices twice a week and has games on Saturdays.
Zarate said soccer can help provide the young students inclusion, fun, physical fitness and a heightened sense of self-worth.
"Maybe the most important part here is the passion, the engagement," said Zarate.
Zarate believes this opportunity for children will pay dividends later in life, just as soccer did for him as a boy growing up in Mexico. He emotionally recalled those early days in his life.
"I grew up playing soccer. I remember playing soccer with no grass. Playing in the streets. And really soccer helped me to out of the trouble. And really it encouraged me to finish my college," said Zarate.
The "SAYS" league is in its sixth year. It is so successful, the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Program is on-board providing free uniforms and soccer balls, and helping coach the volunteer coaches.
"German's vision for having this southeast Arvada league is actually a template that we're hoping to use and implement in other school districts," said Jaime Morales with the Colorado Rapids.
And to think it all started with one person, German Zarate, with an idea to help others.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on 7NEWS. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.