Surf SC Soccer Player Mariana “Marz” Akins Steps Up As A Role Model Against Hate
In a time of such unrest and hate crimes with mass shootings, it is truly wonderful to see young people work on making this world a better place.
Youth Soccer News: Surf SC soccer player Mariana “Marz” Akins will be missing practice and one game this season — for a very good reason.
Out of thousands of students nominated by Rancho Bernardo High School’s teachers and staff and hundreds of students chosen from the Poway Unified School District for an interview, she is one of ten students selected to be a delegate for the Anti-Defamation League’s Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission (NYLM) for the 2018-2019 school year.
Along with the nine other San Diego County delegates from the Poway Unified School District, soccer-loving Akins will be traveling with the ADL to Washington D.C. from Saturday, November 10th, through Wednesday, November 14th.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission is a mouthful but the cause is simple and direct. Founded in 1913, the ADL is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.
Who better than a soccer player to step up and help counteract hatred, prejudice, and bigotry?
Soccer unites the world, on and off the pitch and this service could not be more timely.
While divisive political rhetoric is rampant and people faces attacks rooted in antisemitism around the globe, few people take the time to stand up to hate. In fact, antisemitism seems to be on the rise.
Last year Anti-Defamation League recorded the largest single-year increase of incidents on record.
This year’s program will bring together a diverse group of high school students from Albany, Denver, Florida, New Orleans, New York, Washington DC, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.
The centerpiece of the Mission will be a visit to the very emotionally moving U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In addition to dramatically portraying the events of the period, the Museum will provide a backdrop for exploring issues of bigotry and extremism in America today.
There is clearly no place for hate in our world — and Akins believes that the soccer pitch is no exception. Fortunately, she has not witnessed any while playing the world’s beautiful game. The high school junior knows hate exists in the world and although her school has a tough anti-bullying policy, she knows it can exist under the surface.
“I am most excited about bringing the information back to my school and my community,” said Akins. “Many of my peers do not realize the impact of the Holocaust. The more people who know about what happened in the past — the less likely they are to criticize it in the future.”
Wise beyond her years, Akins understands intuitively that education paves the path to tolerance.
When asked why she believes she was selected from thousands of students, Akins replied, “I am a leader on campus, inside and outside of the classroom. I speak what is on my mind and I like to be a voice for the people who are too scared or shy to speak for themselves.”
Akins who is a high school junior looking forward to attending college and the other delegates will examine historical and modern-day examples of moral courage in hopes of motivating participants to fight prejudice and bias in their own schools and communities.
The soccer pitch has No Place for Hate® nor do schools.
One of the captains of her Surf SC U17 soccer team, Akins has played at the premier San Diego youth soccer club for four years.
“I am a center back and get to see the entire the field while I play, and I am always communicating with my teammates,” said Akins who says she has not witnessed religious or racial discrimination on the soccer field. “You can always express yourself on the field and it doesn’t matter where you come from or your background,” added Akins.
When Akins returns from D.C., she will be off to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase in Florida to compete with other elite players in front of top college coaches.
“Empowering the girls off the field is something Surf is continuing to encourage as well as soccer excellence on the field,” said Louis Hunt, Girls Assistant Director of Coaching San Diego Surf Soccer Club.”
The importance of community and giving back is a strong cornerstone for the world-class youth soccer club — with many teams donating their time and money to charitable causes and good work. “Last season, Surf SC’s U17 team fed the homeless in downtown San Diego. The effort was part of our community outreach. Other Surf SC players traveled to Nicaragua to build houses for those less fortunate,” said Hunt who coaches Akins.
“I love to see players like Marz that have an enthusiastic personality with a love and respect for her teammates and coaching staff,” said Danny Tonks who also coaches Akins. “She always gives her best and is a pleasure to work with.”
“Marz continues to be an exemplary person and teammate both on and off the field,” said Tonks.
“Akins’ work with the Anti-Defamation League is another great example of how our Surf SC players are contributing off the field while being active role-models to the younger players within our club,” said Hunt. “We are very proud of her and all our players who give back to our communities, local and far.”
It is always important to believe that one person can make a difference and contribute positively to change.
“Marz exemplifies that sports can be a vehicle to make a positive impact on others and make a difference,” said Rob Becerra, Director of Coaching – Girls.
Marz’s fans also include Dave LeMaster, Principal Rancho Bernardo High School who said, “I have known Marz since she was a freshman and have always been impressed with her work ethic, positivity, and leadership. I am so proud of her and feel she is an outstanding choice for this opportunity.”