Her Story Starts Here

Written by: Jocabed Leyva, After School Program Partnership Manager

My name is Jocabed. I am currently the After School Program Partnership Manager at Girls in the Game, but I am also a Teen Squad Alumna. It has been a pleasure and a blessing to be part of Girls in the Game for 11 years.

When someone asks me why I continue to be involved with Girls in the Game, I look back at the Fall of 2008. I was a shy freshman girl that was searching for a way to be active and have a space that would allow me to meet and make friends. Growing up, I had the opportunity to learn various sports in gym class; however, the boys in my class were very competitive to the point of intimidating most girls–gym class became my least favorite.

Shortly after starting high school, Girls in the Game was introduced at the beginning of my gym class. I was interested in the fact that the coaches were young women. That day, we learned basic tennis skills. I remember we were playing “popcorn” when a coach approached me. In my head, it was a battle of self-doubt. I kept thinking, “here it goes, I’m probably doing this wrong.” Then she said, “GREAT JOB!”. That great job was all it took for me to enroll in my first Girls in the Game program.

After a year of participating in the After School program, I tried out for lacrosse and softball at school, and I joined Girls in the Game Teen Squad. Through my participation in Teen Squad, I began developing leadership skills which I applied in my church, other after school activities and even in my Track and Cross-Country team. I graduated from Lane Tech High School feeling that I had fully taken advantage of their art programs, AP classes, after school programs, and sports.

I am the first one in my family to attend university in the United States, so that support from Girls in the Game coaches made an impact when I started at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I heard about the opportunity to be an After School coach, and I immediately took it. I wanted to give the same encouragement that I had once received. I ended up being a part-time After School coach for most of my college career. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, I joined the team as an After School Coordinator, then as the Citywide Initiatives Manager and work today as the After School Partnership Manager.

The 14-year-old me would have never dared to try something new, let alone a sport. The 24-year-old me loves trying new food, new activities and is willing to do things that will challenge her to provoke growth. So why do I continue to be involved with Girls in the Game? Not only did Girls in the Game offer me a safe space for me to find my inner self, it also gave me the support and resources to learn, grow and become the woman I am today. Girls in the Game sparks change in the lives of young girls. And I’m asking you to join us on this work.

Just as my coaches came alongside me to encourage me throughout high school, girls today need your support. As we celebrate #HerStoryStartsHere and our 25th Anniversary, we’re asking our team of supporters to help launch the next 25 years of Girls in the Game in a few different ways:

  • We’ve been sharing stories of girls like myself who’ve found their voice and confidence at Girls in the Game. Help us spread the word on social media with #HerStoryStartsHere

Thank you for being a part of Girls in the Game’s story for the past 25 years; here’s to the next 25 years!