Switchbacks captain Rony Argueta and midfielder Eddy Prugh both saw a little bit of themselves in the young faces gazing up at them on Thursday.
“It takes me back a little bit to my childhood and brings back some experiences,” said Argueta, who grew up in Costa Mesa, Calif. “It reminds you about always staying humble.”
The two pro soccer players were at the Carver Elementary School Head Start classroom reading a book by Dr. Seuss to about a dozen preschool children as part of the United Soccer League franchise’s continuing community outreach.
The event was through the Community Partnership for Child Development’s Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3) programs, which serve 2,000 El Paso County children from families at or below the federal poverty line along with those with special needs, communications manager Amie Bennight said. The free programs are located in 60 classrooms spread out over six school districts.
The programs are geared toward these children because they are often 18-24 months behind in their education development because of their situation. The program gives them a chance to enter Kindergarten on an even playing field with other children, Bennight said.
Many of the children may attend next Friday’s home game against Tulsa through a discounted group ticket sale through the Switchbacks and CPCD.
“I cannot wait to go,” said Lily Rand, age 5. “I like soccer.”
“I like soccer too!” 5-year-old Abel Rojas immediately chimed in. “I like watching the games with my dad.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Prugh, 27, was a kid gazing up at athletes too. He got a lot out of those events growing up in Bozeman, Mont., and now in Colorado Springs.
“It’s fun to be the guy they think is a big star because I remember being the wide-eyed kid looking up at those athletes,” Prugh said. ”They’re the sweetest little kids. It just melts you. They’re unaffected by the rest of the world and in their own little bubble of happiness. It’s just so touching.”
Especially when some of the youngsters started hugging the players.
“That got to me,” Argueta said. “I held it together, but I was about to, you know? It reminded me of my family and my little nephews. It’s such a good feeling to go out in the community and give something to these disadvantaged kids. I feel we need to do a lot more of this, you know, as a team and as a community.”