Seven-year-old Ashley likes the Trenton Makes Athletic Center soccer program, because it’s fun, kids get to kick a soccer ball and there are always snacks on the sidelines.

Her mom, Delmi Aguirre, likes the program because they teach more than soccer. Warm-ups include headphones that play audiobooks, and coaches emphasize social skills, she said.

“They show more than just soccer,’” said the mom of three.

Delmi, who works in a warehouse, said she could never afford to send her three children, Ashley, 7, Kiera, 9 and Michael, 11, to a fee-based program, but this one is free.

“My children love it,” she said.

Summer Grants

The Trenton Makes Athletic Center was among the recipients of a 2023 summer initiatives grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation. The grant was provided through the Community Foundation’s Community Impact Grants program, which is a partnership between the Community Foundation, the Burke Foundation and Janssen.

Program Origins

Chester and Jazmyn Jones created the sports program in 2019 because they realized that many children in Trenton did not have the same opportunities as their son, Chazz.

When Chazz was younger, he went to a summer soccer program at a local church and although he had never played before, he was a natural. The couple began coaching travel soccer and eventually enrolled him in an elite training program. College recruiters came calling, and he now plays for Randolph Macon College’s team.

They created the Trenton Makes Athletic Center to serve as feeder program for team sports. In the fall, they run a similar flag football initiative. They also work with local schools on a Sports Build Character program.

“We use this as a model to help prevent kids from falling through the cracks,” Chester said. “We care about the city and the youth of the city.”

Dorothea Williams said her daughter, Alaina, 7, has perfect attendance at school and at soccer.

“I think this is amazing,” said Williams. “I’m truly grateful. This program means so much because Alaina loves this and looks forward to going each week.”

Additional Support

In addition to the Community Foundation grant, the soccer program also received support from other local community organizations: Living Hope Church allows them to use their field. One Simple Wish donated 30 pairs of cleats for families who could not afford them. They also rely on volunteer coaches.

Cornelius Manages, 44, has been coaching alongside Chester for 15 years.

“Soccer was my staple and it got me through college,” he said. “I’m giving back to the place I love. It helps keep the kids engaged and productive, and it keeps me young.”

Jose Bermeo, 14, says he learned communication and leadership skills during the summer program.

“I think it’s a really nice program,” he said. “You come here, and you can socialize with other people, and you learn new skills.”