Lang Scholar Opportunity Project Brings Design Thinking to Chester

Photo courtesy of Omri Gal '19.

Omri Gal ’20 plays on the varsity men’s soccer player, is a Lang scholar, has given guest lectures at Stanford University’s d.school, and was a finalist for this year’s MLS Community MVP award. The summer after his junior year, Gal started coaching at Stetser Elementary school in Chester through the Soccer for Success program run by the men’s soccer team’s assistant coach, Brendan Grady. After getting to meet the students and become familiar with the school, Gal launched an afterschool program last fall with the support of the Lang Center. Design FC was born.

Gal incorporated his teammates, Luke Neureiter ’22 and Ayodeji George ’22, and Warren Creavalle, a professional soccer player at the Philadelphia Union, to work with fifth and sixth graders at Stetser, and to encourage their creative thinking and self-expression through the design of soccer jerseys. From his work on his own lifestyle brand, “Creavalle,” Warren has been able to pass on some of his design ideas to the students. 

“We try and teach design thinking skills through active engagement with sports, primarily soccer,” Neureiter said. “Our students work year-round to produce a portfolio of different design items eventually culminating in each student designing their individual soccer jersey. ”

The process of self-expression also serves as a method of self-reflection for the students, where the students can reflect on what they value and the goals they have for themselves.

“Each student spent the year designing their own unique jersey, in which they expressed what means most to them, their families, their community, what they want to be when they grow up, what they would change in the world, and more,” Gal said.

Every year, Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo recognize individuals who have positively impacted their local communities. Only a year after its conception, Design FC was nominated to represent the Philadelphia Union for the Community MVP award, and was one of 24 finalists. The programs were nominated by the MLS for making a positive impact on social issues, health issues, community service, or sustainability efforts. 

“The past year was really incredible,” Neureiter said. “We got to see DFC go from a small program involving some college kids and eleven fifth graders to receive national recognition by the MLS and Adidas. We definitely want to maintain the integrity of the program and ensure that we don’t look too far forward. However, we still want to maximize our involvement within the community and hopefully we will be able to expand the program to involve other age groups and local artists and activists.”

Design FC has had a large impact on those involved. The students indicated that the program curriculum and interactions with the directors have influenced their views on design and have inspired them to pursue their passions. They’ve also learned to be independent, ask for help, and not to be afraid of expressing themselves freely.

In addition, the students, Design FC has been instrumental for Neureiter, George, and Gal too. It’s even helped influence their courses of study at Swarthmore and plans for life after they graduate.

“It is hard to quantify what DFC has done for me,” Neureiter said. “Aside from the relationships and bonds I made throughout the year it also opened my eyes to so much that was going on around me. I’ve learned so much about Chester and its residents. It is an incredible city that I am so excited to be able to work in and be influenced by. DFC has also broadened my academic engagement at Swarthmore. The work that DFC does really encapsulates what I am trying to cater my major, Peace and Conflict Studies, towards, so it has definitely impacted a lot of decisions I’ve made here as well. Overall, DFC has been one of the best things to happen to me at Swarthmore.”

George had similar sentiments. 

“The program has had a crazy impact on me,” George said. “It reminded me of the amazing ideas that young kids have when they’re given a space and a means to get their ideas out.”

Gal, the mastermind who will graduate after this semester, hopes to turn the project into a profession.

“It’s completely shaped my interests and future aspirations,” Gal said. “I now find myself interested in the intersection of sport, design and fashion. I hope to continue to expand Design FC in Chester and NYC, and continue to explore existing partnerships with community organizers, brands, and other individuals.”

As the program’s one-year anniversary approaches, Gal, Neureiter, and George have been busy planning to kick off their second year. They can’t wait to be back with the students again and to keep doing what they love.

“DFC is definitely going to keep growing, we expect to have almost double the students we had last year,” George said. “Our plan is to just keep designing with the kids and getting their work as much exposure as we can.”

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