Some may wonder why 12-year-old Emilio Flores, a red belt in Taekwondo, was one of the first in line at Verizon's Lakewood, Colo., store to meet former Chivas USA star Claudio Suarez.
"My aspiration is to be the goal keeper, to save balls and be a good teammate," said Flores.
But Flores' allergy-induced asthma often keeps him on the sidelines. For the last few years, Flores has been using Taekwondo to help control his asthma and breathing. And at the same time, he has continued to follow one of his favorite sports: soccer.
"I really like soccer because it is an awesome sport," said Flores, "And it is played all around the world, which is a good thing."
One player Flores admires is Suarez, who retired from professional soccer after playing for MLS team Chivas USA in 2010. Flores can rattle off Suarez's accolades and stats, and knows all about "El Emperadors" rise to fame on the field as one of the game's leading defenders.
"He was a good player, teammate, and defender," said Flores.
"I never imagined I would be able to travel the entire world through soccer and meet as many people as I have," said Suarez. "I am indebted to soccer and now it is my turn to give back to the community and help youth realize their dreams as well."
Suarez, Verizon and Alianza U are teaming up to support the development of amateur soccer and higher education in the Latino community. Alianza U offers students access to exclusive online and onsite resources that simplify college recruitment, application requirements, financial aid and scholarship information.
"I want these kids to be better prepared than I was," said Suarez. "I had great teachers that helped me but it came a little too late. These programs will be able to help youth a lot more, and my goal is to help as well."
Through Sept. 7, high school students from the 11 participating Alianza cities (Dallas; Phoenix; Houston; New York; Denver; Atlanta; Washington; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and El Paso, Texas) can submit an essay online and enter to win one of two $10,000 college scholarships.
Flores says he is focused on his education.
"I've always been good at math and I like to build stuff. I think I would like to go into engineering," said Flores.
In addition to good grades, Flores hopes to take the strides he has made with Taekwondo, and apply them to the soccer field. He is looking forward to joining his first soccer team this fall.
"I play with my friends all the time, so I'm ready."