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Chivas USA team with schools to save soccer

Soccer saved Gerson Mayén’s life. Literally.

The young Chivas USA midfielder grew up in a tough part of Los Angeles and admits that his life would have been a lot different if he hadn’t had soccer during his formative years.

Now a proud member of the Red-and-White, the 21 year-old Manual Arts High School alumnus gets to serve as part of the effort to offer the same opportunities to other LA-area high school soccer players. 

Chivas USA has teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the LA 84 Foundation to help preserve boys’ and girls’ high school soccer at 68 local schools. The partnership was announced at a press conference on Thursday morning, where Mayén was on hand to represent Chivas USA.

“LA is a tough place,” said Mayén. “There are a lot of gangs and drugs. I grew up right across the street from gangsters, but playing soccer helped save me from that.”

Mayén’s story is not an unusual one in Los Angeles. Thursday’s press conference saw a number of student-athletes describe the ways in which sports have helped them to succeed in life and avoid getting into trouble.

“Our coaches are people who truly push us to do our best, and be the best that we can be in our lives,” said Daniel Ruvalcaba, a junior fullback at Banning High School. “They put us in the right direction. Without our coaches, we would be stripped of the people that inspire us most.”

With a $640 million deficit projected for the 2010-2011 school year, the LAUSD had been in danger of making budget cuts that would endanger competitive sports in Los Angeles.

But thanks to organizations like Chivas USA, the LA84 Foundation, and other area civic and philanthropic leaders, enough money has been raised to support athletics for the more than 35,000 student athletes in the city.

“I play soccer at El Camino Real High School and would like to thank Chivas for contributing to keep all the coaches in our schools,” said student-athlete Brittany Charles. “Soccer means everything to me.”

Chivas USA President and CEO Shawn Hunter was also on hand to celebrate the partnership, which he feels will be a major part of the Red-and-White’s charitable efforts in years to come.

“We’re proud to be part of the LAUSD family,” Hunter said. “For Chivas, this commitment to Los Angeles goes way beyond today. We’re looking at this as a long-term partnership. Working with the district to make these programs something that the students, families, and teachers can all be proud of.”

“I ran track in high school and I played soccer, and I can’t imagine not having that opportunity,” he continued. “It made me a better person, a better student, got me to college, and I’ve been very fortunate to have a wonderful career in sports. This is a great day and we’re proud to be part of it.”