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2015 Woman of the Year finalist: Kelsey Graham

The former Wheaton soccer player is taking her sport’s lessons to underprivileged communities around the world

Kelsey Graham’s soccer career may be over, but she hasn’t left the sport behind. Instead, she is using it as a means to give back.

Graham, who was a goalie for Wheaton College (Illinois) and graduated this year, is working as an intern in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for Training4Changes, an organization that uses the sport of soccer to build stronger communities. Graham is also helping develop curriculum, activities and lesson plans that Training4Changes will use at soccer camps.

“Competitive sports bring out things in people – good and bad,” said Graham. “Soccer can help people move beyond rivalries, and help people use the gifts God has given them. This can happen all over the world.”

Graham now spends her time teaching futsal, a variant of soccer that is played in urban settings, to 5-, 6- and 7-year old children who have endured hardships through their young lives. As she teaches her students about the sport, they also learn about respect, love, discipline and responsibility. She also works with local coaches so they better understand the nuances of goalkeeping.

“Being able to share the wisdom I’ve been able to gain from Wheaton and soccer in general has been a unique and rewarding experience,” she said. “Seeing them use the things I’ve shared with them has been a way I’ve seen soccer change lives.”

After her time in South Africa ends, she aspires to travel to other underprivileged communities, using sports ministry to help improve the world one kick, one save and one lesson at a time. Graham’s desire to use her sport to better the lives around her was evident throughout her college career.

“She may be the leader and captain of the team, but she cares more about me as a person than whether or not I make a good pass on the field,” said Kristin Rauh, a former Wheaton teammate. “Kelsey is more than just a soccer player … she gives.”