To continue building relationships with Prince George’s County schools, the University of Maryland’s community engagement office is working to create soccer programs for county elementary and middle school children.

This university’s Office of Community Engagement hopes to bring students from county schools to the campus to play friendly games of soccer, and eventually create a championship game for the students in these clubs, said Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of community engagement. The games would be held on the campus, while practices will be held at the respective schools.

This idea stems from university athletic department plans to bring children and their parents from Cherokee Lane Elementary School in Adelphi and Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park to watch the men’s soccer team play Oct. 18, Aparicio Blackwell said.

“This is a way to keep our youth healthy and to stay away from trouble, as well as becoming part of a team and doing something that they will enjoy,” she said.

When students at Cherokee Lane requested a soccer club for their school, Assistant Vice Principal Andrew Karnes thought this would be a great opportunity to grow the school’s relationship with this university, he said.

“Our students love soccer, but not all of them have access to playing for a team,” Karnes said. “Some of them don’t have the money to play for traveling teams in their community.”

The program is not “set in stone” yet, but the community engagement office is planning on showcasing the university’s soccer field and soccer athletes to the kids who really want to participate in this program, Aparicio Blackwell said.

After the success of a 2014 “Hispanic Heritage Celebration Night” hosted by this university’s men soccer team, the athletic department has striven to continue engaging the local community, said Marcus Wilson, senior associate athletic director and chief administrative officer.

“With the [Oct. 18 soccer game] that we will do, we really want to show our support to the community,” he said.

Wilson and Aparicio Blackwell have also discussed the possibility of university soccer players interacting with the kids at student soccer club games at their respective schools.

“Our men’s soccer player are heroes to a lot of these kids,” Wilson said. “The makeup of our players are first generation soccer players and a come from all over the world… they can serve as role models to [the kids].”

Having university students coming to Cherokee Lane for practices would be beneficial to the kids, Karnes said.

“They are going to be exposed to college and university students,” he said. “If we’re thinking that we want our students to be college and career ready, exposure to a college student or employee is something that sparks interest for college.”

If officials can finalize plans this semester, the Office of Community Engagement is prepared to begin the program in the spring of 2017, Aparicio Blackwell said.