Fútbol Sin Fronteras Education Report 2023 Supporting the Whole Person

Program Overview

The Fútbol Sin Fronteras (FSF) Education Program was established to facilitate positive secondary school outcomes for participants of Fútbol Sin Fronteras Granada through a system of financial, academic, and social-emotional support that empowers participants to overcome barriers to success.

The Fútbol Sin Fronteras Education Program was launched in 2014 in memory of Tom Pope, a young person who exhibited all of the characteristics of a well-rounded student-athlete: humility, dedication to school and team, integrity, hard work, care for self and others. The program was established in his honor by his family to provide educational and financial support to girls in FSF who have dedicated themselves to learning, to their team, and to their futures. With initial financial support from the Tom Pope Memorial Fund, along with visioning and research by Veronica Balladares, Kelly (Pope) Casey, Helen Ramirez, and the FSF staff team, the program has grown over the last 9 years.

Since its creation, the FSF Education program has awarded a total of 584 scholarships.


Of the 134 scholarship recipients, 88% advanced to the next grade level or graduated from primary or secondary school.

Thank you to our 2023 Education Program supporters

Education Program Core Support: Together Women Rise, Tom Pope Memorial Fund, and The Blanco Family

University Scholarship Sponsors: Collin Burks, Julia Blanco, Mary & Annie Connor


"While Nicaragua’s public spending on primary education as a percentage of GDP is on par with other Latin American countries, many public schools struggle to provide their students and teachers with materials, supplies, and even physical infrastructure. Public school teacher salaries are among the lowest in Central America and are insufficient to cover the basic goods and services in the “family basket” defined by the Government of Nicaragua (USAID, 2008)."

"When I was in school, if I didn't show up with a pencil, notebook, or the right clothes, there was no point in going to school. You had to have the right things to participate in classes and you had to buy them yourself. My dad died when I was little and my mom became sick and unable to work when I was in primary school. My mom, my two sisters and I moved in with my aunt. My aunt sold tortillas in our neighborhood and tried to help out with school expenses when she could, but would focus on supporting my younger sisters first. I was expected to help make money if I couldn't attend school, and would help my aunt make tortillas. I started attending FSF and had so much fun. I realized I could get attendance points and exchange them for soccer gear from the FSF store. I began exchanging my points for cleats and then I sold the cleats and bought school supplies with the money. I kept myself in school this way on and off for years. I was motived to do well in school, but even so, it ended up taking me much longer to graduate because I had to somehow afford the things that the teachers required me to have to pass classes. I am proud now to be a self-sufficient and employed woman." - Fatima, FSF Staff Member and Coordinator of Emerging Programs was a part of FSF before the development of the Scholarship program and the addition of school materials and school uniforms to the SWB store where participants exchange attendance points for soccer gear, school items, and food. (Photo top left - pictured: bottom row all the way to the right after winning a tournament with FSF at age 14, Photo top right - pictured: helping to paint the mural at one of the FSF field locations at age 16, Photo bottom - pictured: center back row as the coach age 27)

More Context and Education Program Information

"Poverty is the key factor that makes it difficult for people to progress through the different levels of education and turns the education system into a kind of bottleneck, with the poor rarely reaching the narrowest part (UNESCO, 2006)."

Lisbeth Calderon, with support from Director Veronica Balladares and the all female FSF staff, coordinates the education program at FSF which grows each year (pictured center holding the cones).
"Our vulnerable society experiences major economic challenges and this in many cases does not allow Nicaraguan kids to continue with their studies. So, if girls cannot attend school, they help by working, cooking, watching after siblings, and if they have time girls come to the program to have fun. Once they are on a team, they see other girls studying and are motivated to study too. The FSF team investigates the general and economic situation of the girl and is able to offer her some type of scholarship so that she can return to her studies or continue with her studies, and get ahead. We offer a variety of scholarships so that girls in public school have all the materials they need, or if their family wants to make the jump to private school, then they have the materials and support they need to graduate." - Lisbeth Calderon, FSF Coordinator of Education Program


With Fatima's story and Lisbeth's context in mind, recipients not only receive scholarship funds, but also the tools needed to both attend and stay in school. This can include: uniforms for school and sports, shoes, backpacks, notebooks, pens/pencils, and more.

Creating Safe Spaces is Critical to Supporting the Whole Person at FSF

Our TEAM programs and Youth Leadership program take a holistic approach to learning and incorporate soccer skill building, game play opportunities, education and themes of relevant community issues into weekly planning. These two programs operate for 45 out of the 52 weeks in a year and in 2023 served 369 participants weekly, 354 youth in TEAM programs and 15 youth leaders.

Office Space

The office is a place bursting with life. It provides a space for off-field activities where girls get to work on developing social emotional skills and participate in team building challenges. Staff recognize players at the office each week to celebrate strong attendance and strengths that each participant exhibits. In-person workshops focusing on mental health and well-being are led in the space, which feature a mix of both youth-led and staff-led content. The office also houses our youth leadership program, and the FSF store where participants exchange their points for soccer gear, food for their family, school materials or school uniforms.

Field Spaces

On the field girls build their soccer and teamwork skills, move their bodies, try new things, and have fun. They get to play in games organized by our FSF staff against other FSF teams and in tournaments where teams from other towns are invited to play. On those days, girls from FSF wear their jerseys with pride.

EDUCATION SUPPORT & Family Outreach Spaces

At FSF safe spaces go beyond the traditional lens of physical spaces because the staff knows that to support a girl as a whole person, building relationships with the people in their life is crucial. The team at FSF hosts family outreach at the office, but also completes home visits weekly to ensure that girls on their teams and girls in the Education Program are getting what they need. In addition to home visits, the FSF staff do phone calls home for scholarship recipients (more than 100 households) to check in on their progress and work with families.

In addition to the core programming at Fútbol Sin Fronteras, the staff provide extra programming like soccer workshops held at schools, clinics held in neighboring communities, open tournaments, and more. Through this extra programming the FSF team reached and exposed 1,123 youth (mostly young girls) to the sport and the power of soccer in 2023.

During Copa de Paz (Tournament of Peace) in October 2023, 235 girls filled the street as they marched parade style to the field for the first day of tournament play.

The Scholarship Program

"I just finished my 2023 academic year thanks to the full scholarship. The education support helps my mother financially in the area of school expenses and I feel very grateful for that support. I feel like I'm a different person since I've been at FSF and in the leadership program. It's not just about soccer but also getting to know the girls that are in the program and that's a great idea. I love that apart from empowering girls, they can also help us with our personal problems and help us realize our potential, in addition to soccer skills, and that is progress for women." - Keysi, scholarship recipient

Program Spotlights


Astrid is one of 78 girls who receive support in primary school through the Education Program. She just completed her 4th grade year, is on track to graduate to secondary school in two years, and plays for the Junior Lionesses team at FSF. She shared why she likes being a part of the program:

"The educational program helps me continue with my studies, which will allow me to continue to reach higher levels. It has also helped my parents financially because my scholarship pays for school supplies."

"I like it because in addition to being a good player, FSF has taught me that I can help and teach others. I can show teammates new tricks when they don't think they are good at something and teach others because fútbol unites the world through love, peace, and teamwork. I like helping create a society where it is thought that fútbol is not about rivalry but about union. Being in FSF has motivated me to be a great coach in the future because through this profession I can teach others that soccer is not only for men but also for women and create a culture of equality in sports that is also inclusive."

Secondary School Program

Adriana is one of 52 girls who receives a scholarship to attend high school and one of 18 who receives a full scholarship to attend private secondary school. She has earned this based on her excellent attendance with her FSF team and in maintaining academic excellence. She shares her story:

“I first received a scholarship when I was in 4th grade. This scholarship helped by providing materials and uniforms twice a year. In my final year of primary school, FSF also paid for my 6th grade graduation fees. Due to my perseverance, good grades, the interest and good communication that my mother had with my coach, I was able to be offered a full scholarship for high school at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. This was the best thing that could have happened to me. Without the help from FSF I would not have had the opportunity study at this private school due to economic constraints in my household. It was a great help." - Adriana (pictured to the left with coach Joselyn, was 11 in this picture and is now 15. In addition to her play with FSF, she has been selected to play with the Nicaragua U17 National Team)

"Soccer has motivated my life to move forward, and with the help of Fútbol Sin Fronteras I have learned many things. FSF was a second family in my life since in all the teams we show love, joy, tranquility and trust between us and the coach."

Family Support

There is a positive impact on a participant's entire family when she receives a scholarship. The following was shared by Damaris, the mother of a current scholarship recipient who is in her third year at a private high school in Granada:

"My daughter has stayed with soccer and feels FSF is a safe space that has helped her not only in her studies but also in her self-confidence. I believe having high self-esteem is good for her because it will allow my daughter to be a confident woman when she grows up." -Damaris, scholarship recipient parent


The FSF team have strengthened partnerships with local schools in order to reach younger participants earlier in their academic career. We now work with 27 schools in and around Granada.

Mirea Leal, teacher at Elsa Head Primary School, shared her observations on one of her students who is an FSF participant and the impact of the program in the community:

"I am very pleased that this organization has changed the lives of many girls in Granada. They not only value soccer, but also academics and that is admirable. They make sure girls don’t go down the wrong road and that they have healthy minds. As a teacher, I am happy to see the growth of these young women.”
"Being here in this position makes me feel proud of the many girls who, with the contribution of Soccer Without Borders, have moved forward and are achieving their goals step by step. Being awarded a scholarship motivates them to continue and not stop, knowing that it is a commitment to themselves and their future. So, they are being an example for the new generations. Being and belonging to the scholarship program makes recipients emotionally stronger, prepares them to empower themselves. and show how far women can go." - Lisbeth Calderon, Coordinator of the Education Program

A Look Ahead to 2024

Across the country, high migration rates as well as high unemployment numbers are expected to continue rising. These two circumstances have compromised the success of some of our scholarship recipients, making the odds too great to overcome and causing them to drop out of our program and school altogether. Additionally, monthly school fees for private schools are expected to increase. All of these factors make the need for the Education Program that much greater. Fútbol Sin Fronteras is increasing accessibility to and flexibility of scholarships and expects to support additional households in 2024. This will increase support for primary school students looking to make the transition from public to private school early and provide rolling admissions for girls with high need, high attendance, and commitment to FSF values to join after the annual application round has closed.

expectations & needs for 2024

  • A printer at the office and printer paper
  • 3-5 computers for scholarship recipient use
  • Higher number of primary school partial private school scholarships, requiring additional funds to provide partial monthly fees, school materials, uniforms, and homework support