Nightly News   |  August 05, 2010

Soccer organization changes the lives of at-risk kids

NBC’s Norah O’Donnell examines how StreetSoccerUSA established a sense of community for the homeless as well as encouraging them to set goals to get back on their feet in Thursday’s edition of Making a Difference.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: In our MAKING A DIFFERENCE report tonight, how a game is changing lives for young people who thought they'd never amount to much. But a special organization and teamwork is helping them move from the street to the field and achieve new goals. NBC 's Norah O'Donnell in Washington tonight shows us how that winning combination is making a difference.

NORAH O'DONNELL reporting: Soccer is known the world over as a uniting force, but some also see it as a force for social change. On this day in the nation's capital players from

around the country gathered for two reasons: They love soccer and they've also been homeless. Jasmine Morris left home when she was just 13 years old.

Ms. JASMINE MORRIS: I've stayed in like weird places before, so it gets tough. It's not OK for a teenager to go through that in their life.

O'DONNELL: But now Jasmine belongs to one of the largest communities in the world. She's a soccer player, and it's because an organization that helps homeless teens helped connect her with a coach from Street Soccer USA .

Ms. MORRIS: It makes me feel good. It's like a secret little family.

O'DONNELL: Street Soccer USA not only establishes a sense of community for the homeless, but it also encourages them to set goals.

Unidentified Man: It's really a curriculum, and it's very logical. I mean, you come, you join our team, you meet new friends, you set goals. Everyone has to set three-, six- and 12-month goals. You learn some basic financial literacy, so you go through this process.

O'DONNELL: A process that includes helping them get back on their feet and find employment.

Ms. MORRIS: And I got so much support now, and it was just -- they got me going.

O'DONNELL: TK was born in Kentucky , but spent most of his life in Nigeria . He risked it all to get back to America , a gamble that didn't pay off.

TK: I trafficked drugs and, you know, just to make it over here.

O'DONNELL: That decision landed him in jail and later left him homeless. But at a shelter he found a soccer team , and that made all the difference. He now has a job as a waiter.

TK: I guess without the game, I would have dropped out of school a long time ago. That's what keeps me going. You know? It just keeps me going.

O'DONNELL: For TK and Jasmine , what it took was a community built by a game and a place to call home . Norah O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.