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23 July 9:39 am
Derek Braun is a teacher at Columbus Global Academy, a middle and high school in the Columbus City Schools system. The Academy is home to almost 900 immigrants from about 50 countries, all of whom recently arrived in Columbus, are still learning English and adjusting to life in their new surroundings. About half of the students are refugees from Asia and Africa who have lived most of their lives in refugee camps.
“The biggest challenge is communicating," Braun says, "because a lot of the refugee families and the players on the team come from really diverse and different language and cultural backgrounds.”
The team Braun is refering to is the school's soccer team, a group of young, sprited athletes who grew up watching and playing soccer under sometimes very trying circumstances. Thanks to Braun's tireless efforts, they now have the opportunity to play for their school in a competitive youth league.
For his efforts to use soccer to make a difference, Braun has been nominated as Columbus Crew SC's Community MVP. He is competing in an MLS WORKS contest with 19 other MVPs from around the League for a $10,000 prize that would go to a charity of his choice. You can vote for him here.
Braun has worked at the school for almost five years, beginning as a teacher’s assistant, before becoming a long-term substitute and eventually a full-time teacher. He now spends his time at the school making a difference in the students’ lives, not only as their teacher but their coach as well.
“I was particularly excited about the opportunity to play the role as a coach,” Braun says. “I just have such fond memories of my own high school soccer experience. I played with Westerville South High School and being a part of the team really was pretty formative in helping me develop discipline in my life, comradery with my teammates, even developing some leadership skills playing that role on the soccer team. So I saw that with a lot of the players also.”
Braun is the reason his students are even able to participate on a soccer team in the first place. Columbus Global Academy was unable to have an official soccer team, so Braun arranged for the school to be represented in a local youth league. The school staff provided the funds to buy uniforms and pay the admission fee and helps Braun transport the students to the games on weekends.
“There were a lot of logistical challenges, like rides, communicating," Braun says. "Sometimes newcomer families don’t always have easy means of just being able to call a cell phone or use email.”
That makes simple things such as organizing games and practices a challenge. But with new families regularly joining the school and Braun’s eagerness to get them involved right away, the teacher turned coach finds ways to get it done.
“There was always a lot of enthusiasm from the players which made things a lot easier,” Braun says.
Off the soccer pitch, Braun strives to create the best learning experience possible for his students. And soccer has had an impact in the classroom, as well.
“I designed a classroom management strategy that was called ‘classroom teams with student leaders,’" Braun says. "The basic idea was that a classroom would be divided into two teams."
Braun developed a point system based on that known to soccer fans.
“You would earn three points if you won the team challenge, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss," he says. "I set the team structure up like a season so that different classroom teams would be playing each other, in a sense, playing against each other competitively for either performance on activities or the quizzes we would have weekly.”
Using methods encompassing the beautiful game, Braun has seen academic success and overall growth in his students.
“It's giving them a sense of responsibility, a role to play on the team, and developing a work ethic," Braun says. "I think a lot of discipline develops from being dedicated to being part of a team.”
Braun calls out one student in particular whose success playing soccer led him to excel in the classroom and graduate from Columbus Global Academy last spring.
“He really struggled academically, but knew that soccer was a real way that he could potentially gain scholarship money and go on to playing at a higher level," Braun says. "I think that drive to continue in soccer really helped him focus on his academic work in the classroom.”
Braun plans to follow-up with students as they continue their athletic and academic journeys after they leave Columbus Global Academy. In the meantime, he wants to continue making a difference in the refugee community in Columbus. He says winning the prize of $10,000 from the MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest would help drastically.
“I’d love to see the money go to World Relief Columbus, which is a refugee resettlement office here in Columbus that is newer to the area and is smaller than some of the other organizations,” Braun says.
“I’ve been really impressed with their work and have been volunteering with them for the last couple years doing after-school tutoring. They’ve recently looked at upgrading their office space and there’s a lot of opportunities that I know this money would go to good use in serving the refugee community here in Columbus.”
22 July 9:22 pm

Crew SC Midfielder Ethan Finlay teamed up with the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library to read books and talk to kids about the importance of reading on Wednesday.
Ethan visited the library prior to the launch of Crew SC's 2015 Get a Kick Out of Reading program that runs during the month of August.
The event was held as part of Crew SC’s Give Forward Initiative, which is sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance.

16 July 11:12 am

The men and women in our nation's military make enormous sacrifices while serving overseas.

To help make their tours of duty a little bit easier, Crew SC players Sergio Campbell and Kalen Ryden joined forces with Operation Buckeye to send some love from Central Ohio to servicemen and women everywhere.

After celebrating Military Appreciation night presented by Heartland Bank at MAPFRE Stadium on July 4, Ryden and Cambpell spent Wednesday afternoon filling care packages with food, toiletries, and letters of encouragment to help brighten soldiers’ spirits while they serve the United States Military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Operation Buckeye's mission is to "bring a touch of home and brighten a day of a solider." The organization has sent tens-of-thousands of care packages to troops since its founding.

The event was held as a part of Crew SC's Give Forward Initiative, which is sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance.

08 July 12:24 pm

Crew SC midfielder Hector Jimenez in conjunction with MLS WORKS and Univision presented the Ohio Hispanic Coalition with soccer equipment on July 8th at their Westside location.
Balls, shorts, shin guards, socks and cones were donated to assist the Ohio Hispanic Coalition in running their soccer program.
Along with donating the equipment to the more than 50 kids who were on hand, Jimenez took a tour of the facility and signed autographs.
The event was held as part of Crew SC’s Give Forward initiative, which is sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance.

As you can see, Hector had a lot of fun:

08 July 11:22 am
Columbus Monthly has released its annual “Best of Columbus” issue, and Crew SC has been recognized.
The editors have selected us for “Best New Attitude” featured in the City Life category. Here's what they said:
The Columbus Crew SC’s new look has jump-started the team and the city alike. “We wanted to continue to be original, authentically Columbus and energetic,” says Andy Loughnane, president of business operations. “We wanted to be unapologetically a soccer club. [The redesigned badge] honors our heritage and identifies the city we’re proud to call home and recognizes our supporter culture,” and the striking new black and gold are “unmistakably Columbus—a mark of civic pride.” Columbus Crew SC has also improved the fan experience, making Hot Chicken Takeover, Jeni’s and local beers available at MAPFRE Stadium. But, most importantly, the new attitude is reflected in the team’s playing. “We’re playing a really competitive, fun and interesting brand of soccer on the pitch,” Loughnane says.
The Black & Gold currently sit in second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. With six home wins through the first half of the regular season, MAPFRE Stadium has been a fortress thanks to our supporters. With our new look having been inspired by the city and the people of Columbus, it’s an honor to receive this award.
In addition to the "Best New Attitude" award, Columbus Monthly’s "Readers' Picks" also featured their favorite players. Wil Trapp took home the “Best Crew SC Player” honor, followed by Federico Higuaín and Justin Meram. 
24 June 2:29 pm

Crew SC defender and captain, Michael Parkhurst, stopped by the Far East Recreation Center as part of Olympic Day 2015 on June 23. Michael spoke to the kids about his experience playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team and representing his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After speaking to the group, Michael answered questions and signed autographs.
Olympic Day’s mission is to promote fitness, well-being, culture and education, while promoting the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect - as well as the three Olympic Day pillars: move, learn and discover - in every corner of the globe.
The event was part of Crew SC's "Give Forward" initiative, which is sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance.

13 May 4:46 pm

Crew SC forward, Kei Kamara, made a special appearance at Hayes Intermediate School in Grove City. Kei spoke to the students about his personal journey from Sierra Leone and the importance of hard work and dedication both in the classroom and on the field. After speaking to the group, Kei answered questions from the students, signed autographs and posed for a few pictures.

The event was part of Crew SC's "Give Forward" inititative, which is sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance.

24 April 4:31 pm

As part of the club’s Give Forward initiative, Crew SC players Ben Speas and Brad Stuver participated in Asbury Elementary School's annual "Right to Read" week on Thursday, April 23. The players had a blast reading and answering questions from over 100 Kindergarten and 1st grade students. Crew SC’s Give Forward initiative is presented by MAPFRE Insurance.