Jacksonville Christian Academy (JCA) in Jacksonville, North Carolina, recently won the state soccer championship titles for both boys’ and girls’ soccer. Four Ayusa students attending JCA were part of the championship teams.
Joanna from Taiwan and Chiaki and Ayaka from Japan were 3 of approximately 20 players on the girls’ soccer team. Chiaki and Ayaka had both played soccer before in Japan, but Joanna had never played before beginning her exchange year in the U.S.
Ayaka, a seasoned soccer player in Japan, was determined to be her absolute best. She practiced daily for months before the season even began. After the final game, she received the honor of being named Most Valuable Player for the team. “My dreams came true,” she said, after receiving the honor. “I am thankful for this experience.”
Even with the ultimate success of the team, the journey to the championships was not without challenges. Chiaki injured her knee early in the season, which prevented her from playing until the final two games. Despite this setback, she was fully embraced as part of the team and said it was an unforgettable experience.
Sandra Prayer, a Community Representative for Ayusa and also host mom to Joanna, could not have been more proud of the girls’ accomplishments. “It's not every day you get to witness an army of girls with the bond that these girls share. It's not every day you can get them all to focus on one goal. Then again, today was not just another “every day”. Because of hard work, determination, and perseverance, you're looking at 2017 girls’ soccer state champions!”
Koshin, also from Japan, played on the boys’ soccer team. He had also never played soccer before coming to the U.S. and didn’t even know the rules. Over the three month season, he worked hard at practice and ultimately became a key player. Just a few days after the girls’ team won the state title, the boys’ team did the same.
Koshin was thrilled with both the soccer success and with his entire American experience. “This has been the best year of my life,” he says. “I am sad that the year is coming to an end soon.”
As the students get ready to return to their home countries, their host families expressed pride in the students and gratitude for the experience. “These kids have worked hard, played hard and have accomplished so much this year. We are honored to have been a part of their lives. They will forever remain in our heart and as a member of our families,” said Sandra, expressing sentiments shared by all the host families in Jacksonville.
Kim Zegelien, principal at Jacksonville Christian Academy, was pleased with the big wins, but also recognized the less flashy impact Ayusa students have had on the school. “Jacksonville Christian Academy has been honored to be a part of the Ayusa family. We have had wonderful experiences with the students that have been sent to us. Our Ayusa students have had the opportunity to play on our athletic teams and have had a huge impact in our soccer program. They have helped our younger, inexperienced players develop a love for soccer, and with their help our boys and girls soccer teams won the NCCAA state soccer championships.”
Jacksonville Christian Academy is already confirmed to welcome several more Japanese Ayusa students in the 2017-18 school year. Ayusa still has students from a wide range of nationalities looking for host families and schools all over the United States. Interested families can learn more about hosting and apply online to start the process.