Major League Soccer, D.C. United, Black Players for Change (BPC) – an independent organization of Black MLS players, coaches, and staff working to bridge the racial equality gap in soccer and society – and RBC Wealth Management announced today the 2023 All-Star Hometown Heroes.
This honor recognizes the work of impactful organizations and leaders who are making positive change in the communities of the District of Columbia and that embody D.C. United’s community values of empowerment, opportunity and service.
The 2023 Hometown Heroes will each receive a $15,000 grant to elevate their work and community impact.
- Latin American Youth Center – Lupi Quinteros-Grady (she/her), President and CEO
- Rainbow Families – Darren Paul-Vance (he/him), Executive Director; Dr. Ashlie Prioleau (all/any), Board of Directors
- So Kids Soar (formerly Dreams for Kids) – Glenda Fu Smith (she/her), Executive Director
- We’re Empowered to Achieve the impossible (WETATi) – Dr. Margaret Dureke (she/her), Founder, President and Executive Director
Additionally, Howard University's Men’s Soccer Program is being recognized as the Honorary Hero for positively impacting the local community through soccer.
The program’s current and past coaches – Phillip Gyau (he/him), Keith Tucker (he/him), and Lincoln Phillips (he/him) – will accept the award on the program’s behalf.
The second annual MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase presented by RBC Wealth Management and in collaboration with BPC and D.C. United, is a private event that will take place on Tuesday, July 18, the day before MLS faces off against Arsenal FC. The event is part of the League, D.C. United, BPC and RBC Wealth Management’s ongoing efforts to amplify and celebrate inclusion and equity.
Note: Dr. Ashlie Prioleau (all/any), Board of Directors, will accept the award on behalf of Rainbow Families during the Showcase.
As local stars off the field and in the community, the Hometown Heroes sported the 2023 All-Star jerseys at Audi Field, home of the 2023 All-Star game. The jersey design was inspired by the Nation’s Capital’s famous landmarks and the three stars of the District of Columbia’s flag. Jerseys are on sale starting today at MLSstore.com and in D.C. at various All-Star activations.
The organization must have a record of community impact embodying D.C. United’s community values of empowerment, opportunity and service serving the District of Columbia region. The primary leader of the organization must be from one of the following underrepresented groups: Asian or Pacific Islander, Arab or Middle Eastern, Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, Native American, or People with disabilities.
- D.C. United/Black Players for Change athletes Chris Durkin (he/him), Steve Birnbaum (he/him) and Donovan Pines (he/him)
- D.C. United stakeholders that included President of Business Operations, Danita Johnson (she/her)
- MLS EVP, Commissioner’s Office and Chief DEI Officer, Sola Winley (he/him)
- RBC Wealth Management representative, Beth Rafferty (she/her)
Latin American Youth Center
The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) empowers a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multicultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths’ social, academic, and career needs. Since their founding in the late 1960s, LAYC has grown from a small grassroots recreation center into a nationally recognized agency serving all low-income youth. Each year LAYC serves over 4,000 youth and families through youth centers, school-based sites, and public charter schools in the District of Columbia and Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties as the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC). We believe in a future where all youth pursue their dreams, reach their goals, and acquire the skills and self-confidence to live a life of purpose, connection, contribution, and joy.
Lupi Quinteros-Grady (she/her), President and CEO: “On behalf of my entire team, and as someone who represents the organization that helped me get to where I am today, LAYC’s recognition as an MLS All-Star Hometown Hero is truly an honor. It allows our team to showcase the positive work being done in the community and hopefully inspire others as it has inspired me to dream big.”
For over 40 years, Rainbow Families DC has provided education programs, support services, resources and opportunities to connect for LGBTQ+ parents, prospective parents and families. As a small, grassroots nonprofit, Rainbow Families provides an extensive array of services – all thanks to loyal, selfless volunteers. Rainbow Families offers ten monthly support groups, pathways to parenthood courses such as Maybe Baby, a Legal Talk series, an annual Family Conference, plus empowering family gatherings such as their Family Camping Weekend, ball game outings, playdates, picnics and more. Services are offered both virtually and in person.
Darren Paul-Vance (he/him), Executive Director: "It is a tremendous honor for Rainbow Families DC to be selected as an MLS All-Star Hometown Hero. Especially as a lean, grassroots non-profit, this recognition and support will assist us in carrying out their mission to educate, support, and connect LGBTQ+ families, parents and prospective parents by offering a wide variety of education programs and support groups in the D.C. Metropolitan area. Rainbow Families envisions and strives for a nation where all LGBTQ+ families can legally, openly and safely live in full equality. We are grateful for the MLS community's support to help make that vision a reality."
So Kids Soar
So Kids Soar (SKS, formerly Dreams For Kids DC), a not-for-profit section 501©(3), provides life-changing programs that empower youth with physical and developmental disabilities to strive, own, achieve and realize their potential. We enable participants to SOAR through a suite of adaptive programming that includes athletic, recreational, and skill-building activities. The self-confidence and skills gained through these programs inspire each child to realize that their disability will not prevent them from fulfilling their potential.
Glenda Fu Smith, Executive Director: "Being an MLS All-Star Hometown Hero means ensuring that your community is seen and heard; and being the conduit through which their stories are shared and honored. I believe that every person has an important story to share and contribution to make to this world – and my hope is that I can help them realize their importance."
We’re Empowered to Achieve the impossible
We’re Empowered to Achieve the impossible is a nonprofit that provides world-class enrichment for students anywhere through their Practical Entrepreneurship Education Program. Practical: educate low to moderate-income students through practical and experiential activities that prepare them for employment, future economic opportunities & entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship: Economic empowerment through equitable access to employment and job creation. Education: An in-depth breakdown of the key things you'll need in real life. Broken down into detailed, doable, digestible lessons and sessions.
Dr. Margaret Dureke (she/her), Founder, President and Executive Director: "Our mission of educating and empowering low to moderate-income students (11-25 years old) on how to become financially independent through our program ‘practical entrepreneurship education’ is a difficult one to accomplish, but with support from progressive organizations like MLS it’s more than possible. For this, we are eternally grateful."
Howard University Men’s Soccer Program
In 1939, the Howard University men’s soccer team played the first interracial soccer game in the United States. The program became the first university to win both the NAIA and NCAA championship titles (NAIA – 1961; NCAA – 1971, 1974). Howard is the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to win an NCAA soccer title (or any Division I national title).
Phillip Gyau, current Howard University Men’s Soccer Coach: "The MLS All-Star Game is a momentous occasion that brings together the best of the best in the world of soccer. I am so proud to be a part of this prestigious event. For Washington, D.C., this game is more than just a showcase of skill and talent. It is a celebration of our city's rich history and diverse culture. And as we look to the future, it's also an opportunity to highlight the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the world of soccer.”
Major League Soccer: Sola Winley (he/him), EVP Commissioner’s Office, and MLS Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer
“Major League Soccer is honored to celebrate and acknowledge these deserving Hometown Heroes whose impact and love make the world brighter and safer for so many individuals, families, and communities.”
Black Players For Change (BPC): Quincy Amarikwa (he/him), Founder
“It is an honor to showcase the remarkable individuals and influential organizations in the DMV who are true community heroes. The dedication and thoughtful consideration invested by the selection committee in evaluating a wide array of impactful local leaders fills us with inspiration. Black Players For Change expresses gratitude for this chance to foster connections and bring attention to community members who have diligently worked towards advancing culture, undeterred and unwavering in their commitment to the greater good of humanity.”
RBC Wealth Management: Beth Rafferty (she/her), RBC Wealth Management branch director in Washington, D.C.
“As a native Washingtonian, I’m proud to honor these grassroots organizations and the work they do every day to help our neighbors thrive. Making a positive impact in the communities where we live and work is a cornerstone of the culture at RBC Wealth Management. The MLS Hometown Heroes embody that value of social responsibility, striving to make the District of Columbia an equitable and inclusive place for all.”