Andrew So, executive director of South Bronx United, was in attendance at Verdi Music Hall in Berlin, Germany on Feb. 17 with two members of the organization—Maria Martinez and Mohamed Konate—to receive the award. Presenting the award were English actor Hugh Grant and Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick.
The Laureus Sport for Good Award is given out to an organization or individual that has used sport to reduce the impact of violence, conflict and discrimination, to enhance social and emotional development, to inspire healthy behavior change and to increase educational achievements and employability skills, according to a news release.
“Sport is an incredible tool for positive change and at South Bronx United, we have been fortunate enough to see a positive change in the hundreds of young people who have come through our program in the past 10 years,” So said in a news release.
“Through soccer, the young people we work with build confidence, self-esteem and form relationships and friendships. I would like to thank the Laureus Academy for recognizing our work, which is required more than ever.”
The youth development organization was founded in 2009 and uses soccer to engage immigrant and first-generation youth in the South Bronx, according to their website. The group says it has worked with more than 1,000 kids, aged 4 to 19, combining soccer with academic enrichment, immigrant legal services, college prep and wellness promotion.
Being the recipients of the Laureus Sport for Good Award puts the organization in the same conversation with top athletes around the world. American gymnast Simone Biles was the recipient of the 2020 Laureus Sportswoman of the Year. Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton were joint winners of the 2020 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.
The two students that joined Andrew So in Berlin to receive the award, Maria and Mohamed, are both 18-year-old high school seniors who emigrated to the United States with their families. Maria, from Mexico, and Mohamed, from the Ivory Coast, have received several college acceptances with the help of South Bronx United.
“In 2000, our Patron Nelson Mandela said ‘Sport has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does,’” said Fitzpatrick in the release. “Andrew, Mohamed and Maria will stand on stage as proof that those words still ring true today. They are an inspiration and as academy members, we are so proud to celebrate their success.”