Some people think teenagers spend all of their time on the Internet or playing video games. Others think that teens don't care about the world around them. They don't know these teens.
Five years ago, a group of Mountain View and Los Altos teenagers came together and decided to combine their love of soccer with community service. They started the "Kick Lead Dream" (KLD) camp with 25 middle school kids and five coaches. They now have more than 300 campers and 75 coaches.
"It's the highlight of my summer," said Allie Gamble, 15, camp co-director and Los Altos resident who is a rising junior and varsity soccer player for . "It's not like work. It's fun for us too."
The program, initially played on the fields of , has expanded to include not only 8- to 15-year-old boys and girls from Mountain View but also Sunnyvale kids. This year the two-week camp–which began on July 5 and concludes on Friday—took place at Cherry Chase Elementary School in Sunnyvale.
Gamble and her MVHS soccer teammate, Sonia Nigam, 16, co-directed the program this summer. They inherited the responsibility from their brothers, Akash Nigam and Robby Gamble, the founders.
But the brothers headed off to college, so Gamble and Nigam, who came on board in the camp's second year to run the junior division—for the elementary school kids, versus the middle school kids in the senior division—organized the entire camp.
Now after several years, the original campers have become the teen volunteer coaches, a feat that impresses even the directors.
"It gives us hope that this camp will become self-sustaining," said Nigam. "When we established this, we didn't now what would happen."
One of those campers turned coach, Josue Aguilar,in his first year as a coach, has noticed and welcomes the added responsibility.
"As a camper, there was more freedom, because we would just get to kick the balls around," said the 15-year-old Aguilar, a rising sophomore at MVHS. "But now I'm an instructor and I tell them what to do. It's like I'm a teacher. Like I'm a leader."
Aguilar, found out about KLD as a student at , and he decided to participate as a way to make sure "he wasn't at home or doing bad stuff."
Part of the outreach for KLD has been done under the auspices of the Mountain View Police Activities League (MVPAL) and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (SVDPS), which serve as the umbrella organizations. MVPAL and SVDPS have helped procure resources, such as playing fields, transportation and camper recruitment.
Even though each child pays $5 to participate, Gamble and Nigam also spend the months prior to camp fundraising to pay for soccer balls, pinnies, snacks and other expenses. They have over the years secured sponsorships from the Kiwanis Clubs, the Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club, Kaiser Permanente, the YMCA, , Lucile Packard Children's hospital, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Mesa de la Cominidad, Sonitrol and All Star Soccer.
"It's amazing, because they've recruited all the sponsors and the coaches. They also go to the store and help purchase equipment," said Cindy Gamble, mother of Robby and Allie. "They are like mini-CEOs."
Another one of the big accomplishments of KLD has been its relationship with the San Jose Earthquakes. Every year, the camp directors invite the Earthquakes to speak, and this year, defender Justin Morrow visited last Friday.
"The amount of kids is a little overwhelming," said Morrow, who kindly and patiently autographed everything from T-shirts, to player cards and cleats for the 300 boys and girls. "It's the largest number of kids I've spoken to since doing this with the Earthquakes."
The popularity of the camp with kids also rubs off on the coaches, recruited from area high schools like Mountain View, Los Altos, St. Francis, Harker, Bellarmine, Castillejas, Lynbrook, Homestead, Fremont, Monta Vista Vista, Santa Clara, Lincoln and Prospect.
Los Altos resident Riley Klein, 16, a rising junior at Homestead High School, has coached for three years. For him, it's doesn't feel like work.
"I like it for multiple reasons," he said. "I like all of the kids that come, and it's nice to volunteer."