LITTLE FERRY, N.J. — Giovanni Calderὀn wants to study communication arts in college, but the 16-year-old central defender from North Haven, Conn., was speechless when he walked through the doors of an Allstate insurance agency Tuesday afternoon.
There for what he believed was the final stages of a scholarship application process, Calderὀn instead was stunned to receive a $5,000 scholarship from the company, in partnership with Alianza U Foundation, an organization that helps Hispanic soccer players use their passion for the sport to secure scholarships.
Calderὀn, who plays in the New York City FC academy, also received an all-expenses paid trip to MLS Cup, as well as tickets to Thursday’s second leg of the Eastern Conference final at Red Bull Arena. And he got to meet New York Red Bulls veteran defender Aurelien Collin.
Not bad for a Tuesday.
“I couldn’t even imagine that,” Calderὀn said. “When I came in, I thought there was going to be other interviews going on, and all of a sudden I just got presented with [the scholarship] and [trip to] the Cup final. I just can’t wait to go to that.”
While Calderὀn struggled to find words to express his emotions, his mother, Marilyn, was brought to tears during the presentation.
“I lost my job eight months ago and the timing of this is just really amazing because I’m always telling my kids that academics is first and foremost,” Marilyn said. “My husband always pushes the sports, but I’m always about academics. … I didn’t expect him to earn a $5,000 scholarship. That’s amazing.”
In his scholarship essay, Calderὀn talked about the financial hardship his family has undergone because of his mother’s unemployment and how he picked up a tutoring job to help defray the costs of gas and tolls necessary to make the nearly two-hour trip to NYCFC academy practice four nights a week.
Professional soccer has always been a dream, but Calderὀn said it’s become more of a reality the last three or four years. He said “it would be awesome if I step on a pro field,” but Calderὀn first wants to follow in the footsteps of older brothers Neekoli, 23, and Joshua, 21, by playing Division I college soccer.
He has interest in Quinnipiac University, but he said he is keeping his options open.
“For all my life I’ve been wanting to play soccer, but these [last] three or four years I’ve been really wanting to go pro because of how much work I put in the game,” Calderὀn said.
Calderὀn, who maintains a 3.5 GPA, puts equal emphasis on his education — something Collin said can sometimes be lost in pursuit of a professional career.
“…Something back in Europe we forget about is education,” said Collin, who was born in France. “Of course, the soccer part is very important, but helping a kid to go to college and keep studying in his education on top of that — of course he’s going to train very hard to become a professional — I think that’s a reminder for a lot of people. It’s beautiful that his family is pushing him to get a good education.”
Although his journey to becoming a professional was different, Collin said he has a lot in common with Calderὀn.
“I was very lucky to have a mother who was behind me, to make sure I was going to school and studying and having good grades,” Collin said. “I can see myself in him and that’s why I’m very happy for him.”