I was first introduced to Kalonji Soccer Academy (KSA) when I had the wonderful opportunity to help coordinate a company gift drive with Envistacom in 2017. My team and I worked with Bruno Kalonji, the founder of KSA, and his incredible team to provide a fun-filled holiday event. This event was eye-opening for me. I met several of the underprivileged kids involved in the Academy, and I was inspired by their strength and positivity. The everyday necessities that most of us take for granted – appropriate clothing and shoes, a safe and clean place to sleep, or regular warm meals – are not steadily available to these kids. I had no idea that this type of poverty was about 30 minutes from where I was born and raised in North Georgia.
Come to find out, there is a large community of refugee families in Decatur, Georgia who have been forced to flee their country due to persecution, war, or violence. Many families cannot return home or are afraid to do so because of the circumstances. Today, more refugees than at any other time in history have fled unimaginable violence and persecution in search of safety and a more promising future for their children. Bruno realized the need for organizations like KSA to help these communities and provide a safe, fun environment for the underprivileged children to learn and grow.
Several of the refugee players and their families do not have access to, or aren’t aware of, ways to help the players get to college. KSA brings kids together from all walks of life and provides a healthy, structured environment that allows the kids to reach a greater potential. Some of these kids would not normally be privy to opportunities that would allow them to aspire to have a better life if it weren’t for the KSA program. As a native of The Congo, Bruno’s cultural background and experiences enable him to better relate to the kids, especially the refugees, and inspire them to hope for brighter futures.
What sets KSA apart from other organizations is the innovative way they use soccer to develop useful life skills and instill a sense of belonging for the kids. They strive to include everyone and not leave any child behind, regardless of financial circumstances. Every child who loves the game of soccer and is willing to work hard, has an opportunity to be a part of the team. The bedrock of the KSA philosophy is that talent isn’t the only determinant of success. With hard work, a strong, supportive and caring community, and knowledgeable/qualified coaches, KSA players can become successful at everything they want to do in soccer and in life.
The community and family environment that surrounds KSA is unlike any other. If you are on the team, you are a part of the family. The coaches act like a second set of parents to the kids. They truly care about each child as if they were their own. They often provide meals, transportation, and make sure the kids have what they need to succeed. They encourage them to embrace a good education by working hard in school. This, of course, is not an easy feat considering how large the Academy has gotten. Luckily, Bruno has a dedicated staff who share a passion to help the children and mold them into successful adults. They strive to build well-rounded athletes who exude mental strength, physical endurance, and critical thinking skills both in the game of soccer and in the game of life. Just as importantly, the community of parents, sponsors and volunteers surrounding the organization make it possible for the soccer program to be as successful as it is. In this case, the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t ring truer.
Envistacom is the main sponsor for KSA and plays a significant role in keeping kids off the streets and active in the soccer program. The players are exposed to incredible opportunities with the help of Envistacom; opportunities that are allowing more KSA players to go to college, play professional soccer, and above all, to learn the skills and life lessons that enables better lives both on and off the field. Envistacom helps to make this possible by not only providing financial support, but also by developing the KSA website, coordinating special events such as holiday parties and soccer clinics, organizing gift drives, providing food, and being an all-around support for the organization in any way necessary. The company became involved with KSA because the owners of Envistacom, Alyssa and Alan Carson, are very passionate about soccer and about giving back to the community. The partnership between KSA and Envistacom has a certain synergy. Envistacom’s vision is to make the world a safer place, while KSA is working to create a better life for those living in it.
About Kalonji Soccer Academy:
Kalonji Soccer Academy (KSA) was founded in 2012 with the purpose of helping underprivileged and refugee youth build their futures, using soccer as the catalyst to attain opportunities leading to a better life. The Academy has over 400 kids ranging from ages 5 through 19 and puts a special emphasis on creating an avenue to college. The founder of KSA, Bruno Kalonji, runs the Academy with several members of his family, including both of his parents. The Academy operates under the Atlanta Youth Soccer Association, which is the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that the Kalonji family started to create awareness of the need for an organization such as KSA. The family is close-knit and works together to organize a program that helps kids not only become better soccer players, but also propels them to apply for college, including scholarships and financial aid. The program also provides transportation from school to soccer practice, games, and other KSA related events for kids who do not have access to reliable transportation. For more information, please visit www.kalonjisoccer.com.
Envistacom is a privately held, Hispanic woman-owned technology small business that provides counterterrorism, cyber and communications solutions to U.S. and coalition partners in the aerospace, defense and intelligence communities. Customers rely on Envistacom for innovative technology and subject-matter expertise to achieve their missions in identifying and defeating global threats. Envistacom is a trusted partner in protecting military, civilians and critical infrastructure around the world. They intend to “make the world a safer place” through their everyday operations, as well as through their community outreach. Envistacom is very passionate about giving back to the community. For more information, please visit www.envistacom.com.