CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy Academy is committed to developing talented players on the soccer field and accomplished student-athletes in the class room. That pledge can be seen by the continued growth of the Academy’s high school program, which is now in its third year.
The program is led by Education Director Stefanie Baduria who is in her third-year with the organization. A holder of a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Arts in Literacy from Loyola Marymount University, Baduria is in her third year with the organization and is presently a Doctor of Education candidate at the University of Southern California.
A former captain of Loyola Marymount’s women’s soccer team during her time with the Lions, Baduria saw a unique opportunity to blend her twin passions of education and the beautiful game within the Galaxy’s academy structure.
“I was excited about the vision of building a one of a kind high school that went beyond the scope of helping students reach their academic potential. I was inspired by the fact that I could take part in advocating for an education initiative under the umbrella of a professional soccer club,” Baduria told LA Galaxy Insider. “I wanted to help elite soccer players realize their ability to dually pursue soccer and school at the highest levels. I quickly became passionate about the unique opportunity and project at the Galaxy. My excitement continues to grow as I see the education initiatives gain momentum and the culture of the Academy evolve.”
In addition to Baduria, the program boasts six education staffers with expertise in Educational Psychology, Learning and Instruction, Pedagogy, Blended and Online learning, Academic Counseling, and Academic Advising.
The initiative that started with borrowed classrooms at Cal-State Dominguez Hills has grown in recent years with the program now being held entirely on the StubHub Center campus. Student-athletes now have an opportunity to learn within a classroom setting that provides them ample space for their course instruction for their primarily online-based education.
Other elements of the home of the Galaxy are utilized with event suites used as classrooms, while the program’s Back to School Night and Graduation were each held at the American Express Stadium Club. For Baduria, the ability to use these facets of the stadium as resources in education speaks to the Galaxy’s commitment to the learning process.
“The ability to see all the pieces of our school come to fruition inside StubHub’s facility shows that the entire club, staff, and facility has bought into the vision of investing into the development of our Academy student-athletes," Baduria said. "They’re our foundation and future, and our entire team believes that.
“All facets of the Academy are of equal importance and the staff works together to see that all pieces of the day are respected and integrity of every environment is maintained: from the training field, to the Underground where the boys eat lunch, to the classroom, and in the gym. Worldwide, not many clubs can boast that teamwork across the board – it’s unique and truly speaks to the Galaxy’s culture.
“The growth of the program is exponential, I’m very proud of it. Albeit fast, it’s also methodical and calculated. Structures, support systems, ideas that are implemented – they are constantly evaluated for success and adjusted to suit this unique environment and unique demographic of student-athletes.”
It isn’t simply the Galaxy’s Boys’ Academy taking advantage of the program’s growth, however.
The program’s evolution has allowed for the club’s professionals who have graduated from the Academy to take advantage of its services. With the aid of Baduria and her staff, several Galaxy first and second team players have been able to return to the classroom.
With Galaxy II the youngest team in USL by far, Baduria finds it vital that its players realize their academy potential by continuing their education as they begin their fledgling professional careers.
A total of four Galaxy II players are continuing their education: Ethan Zubak (UCLA), Eric Lopez (Cypress College with aspirations to transfer to CSU-Dominguez Hills), Jonathan Hernandez (Pasadena City College), and Adrian Vera (Cypress College), while a fifth Efrain Alvarez is presently enrolled in the Galaxy’s educational program with a full high school sophomore slate.
“We invest in the development of our Academy players and foster the value of education, that sentiment continues onto our second team, and ultimately our first team as well,” Baduria said. “It’s important for these men to continue their education because it ultimately empowers them and sets them apart from their peers. Education is something no one can take away from you. It’s invaluable. As a club, we’re behind that message and we provide GII players the support to reach their academic potential.”
As the program enters its third-year, Baduria has sky-high expectations for what is to come.
“I see a lot of room for growth and improvement because we’re the Galaxy – we strive for the best,” Baduria says. “With the proper data to back our credibility and a curriculum of our own, I see us being our own recognized, accredited educational institution. I envision dedicated facilities to the Academy and its high school.
“As the Academy is continuing to evolve, I am honing in on the “off the field” component of our Academy player’s development. The Academy student-athletes are at a crucial point in their development. It’s very important that our club and Academy staff guide them in their maturation as young adults. The club and the Academy must be committed to producing well-rounded, excellent individuals by holding high expectations – while also – protecting and promoting the well-being of our young men in their social, mental, and personal lives.”