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LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Pérez Surprises San Rafael Elementary Soccer Champions

Professional soccer player presents medals and shares inspiring message with Pasadena students after their undefeated season

Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | 6:31 am

The San Rafael Elementary School soccer team, part of the Pasadena Unified School District’s LEARNS afterschool program, received a surprise visit from LA Galaxy player Jonathan Pérez on Tuesday, May 21.

Pérez presented the young champions with medals and shared an inspiring message about leadership, teamwork, and sportsmanship.

The team, consisting of 21 players from third, fourth, and fifth grade, a diverse mix of boys and girls, recently clinched the championship title on the same day after an undefeated seven-week season.

The San Rafael soccer team played against multiple schools in their league, including Washington, Madison, Altadena, Longfellow, and Jackson, winning all seven games before advancing to the semi-finals and championship.

In a tense final match against Longfellow Elementary, the game ended 1-1, leading to a penalty shootout where the San Rafael team secured their victory.

This marked the second consecutive year that the San Rafael soccer team had won championships.

San Rafael Elementary Principal Sandra Rizzo-Smith organized the special event to celebrate the students’ success and reinforce the program’s values.

“I wanted to make it really special for them,” Rizzo-Smith said. “And because we have been teaching them about sportsmanship and helping each other, celebrating each other and working as a team and what that looks like.”

Pérez, who plays as a winger for the LA Galaxy and the Mexico National Team, surprised the students in the school auditorium.

After watching a video clip highlighting Pérez’s journey from childhood to professional soccer, the students were thrilled when he emerged from backstage to personally present them with their medals.

“He shared a short speech about what it means to be a leader in sports, what it means to work as a team, and what it takes to get to the next level as far as that unity and working together and always celebrating your teammates and working as a family,” Rizzo-Smith said.

The young athletes, aged 8 to 10, were ecstatic to meet Pérez, who spent two hours answering questions, taking pictures, and signing shirts.

The visit not only celebrated the team’s achievements but also highlighted the importance of extracurricular programs in student development and community engagement.

Jessica Isenberg-Crawford, site coordinator for the San Rafael LEARNS Program, emphasized the team’s journey and the critical role of family support.

“The excitement and the full turnout of our families at every game made a huge difference,” she said.

The San Rafael soccer team’s success is a testament to the effective support systems in place at the elementary school, including strong community and family involvement.

The LEARNS program offers organized sports opportunities throughout the school year, providing uniforms, transportation, and other necessary resources to make it accessible for all students.

The soccer season will resume in the spring of the next school year, while other sports such as football and basketball will be offered when students return in August.

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