Fan Culture

Going to Brazil: Starfinder Foundation representing the USA at the World Cup

Featured Image: Clare Shepherd/Starfinder Foundation

Cydney Pennick will be in Rio De Janeiro on the Fourth of July.

The 16 year old will be sitting in Rio’s famed Maracanã stadium, watching live as France takes on Germany in a quarterfinal World Cup matchup.


16 year old Cydney Pennick will represent the Starfinder Foundation at FIFA’s “Football for Hope” festival in Brazil. She was joined by her family before departing for South America.

Not bad a bad way to spend your Independence Day, right?

Cydney is one of six teenagers who traveled to Brazil this week with Philadelphia’s Starfinder Foundation as part of FIFA’s “Football for Hope” festival. It’s a program that brings together teens from around the world and focuses on soccer as a tool for social change.

Pennick found out she was going to Brazil while she was playing an indoor soccer game.

“I didn’t know I was going to get picked, so that was just really, really great. I was excited,” Pennick said of her inclusion in the trip. “I always wanted to go to Brazil. That’s been one of the countries that I’ve wanted to visit my entire life. And on top of that, since it’s during the World Cup, it’s going to be even more great.”

Starfinder is the only delegation in the entire country that was selected by FIFA to participate in this event.

The Manayunk-based organization chose three boys and three girls from its youth programs to travel to Brazil. Pennick will be joined by 14 year old Sierra Drummond and 17 year old Imeasha Robinson. 18 year old Erick Cerrada is the oldest member of the group and David Madrid and Tahir Mohammed are both 17. They’ll be joined by “young leader” Nury Ortiz and Starfinder officials in South America.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Starfinder Executive Director Heidi Warren. “It’s phenomenal. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to make the selection, because there are so many terrific organizations using soccer for youth development. Obviously these kids are pretty overwhelmed by the responsibility of representing the U.S. in Brazil. It’s pretty huge.”

The festival focuses on intercultural exchange, allowing delegations to share their best ideas and showcase their work. Starfinder will have a chance to present its practices and philosophies to 31 other groups from 23 other countries.

Locally, Starfinder has been providing educational and personal development programs for under-served Philadelphia youth since 2002. The non-profit foundation works annually with some 700 local children. For six-straight years, students who regularly attend Starfinder programs have had a 100 percent graduation rate from high school.


Left to right – Starfinder Executive Director Heidi Warren, Imeasha Robinson, Sierra Drummond, Cydney Pennick, Erick Cerrada, Tahir Mohammed, David Madrid, Danny Shaw. Photo: Clare Shepherd/Starfinder Foundation

“The point of this is to bring kids together from all different walks of life, who share this common sense of purpose with soccer and service to a greater social mission,” Warren said. “They’re going to be learning a lot from each other. There’s going to be a lot of cultural exchange, plus activities and workshops that teach each other the things that they use in their respective organizations. They’re going to get a pretty powerful message of needing to think of themselves as leaders coming back to their home communities, to bring what they learned during the festival back to home, to continue the work.

Jada Pennick is obviously proud of her daughter, who wants to major in sports medicine when she goes to college.

“It’s exciting,” she explained. “It’s exciting, because she’s been playing soccer since third grade and she’s been with a couple of different teams. She has a real love for the sport and Brazil is one of her teams. This is a great opportunity since she’s been involved in soccer for awhile. She’s been with the Starfinder Foundation since middle school. She knows all the people here, she’s met some great girls, and she was able to be exposed to a great all-girls team. I think, when girls play sports, it opens up the world for them, it gives them opportunities to piggy back on, in addition to their academics. She helps to coach at her school, and she coaches younger players. I think it builds character, because the girls that she plays with, they all encourage one another. Everybody doesn’t have to be a superstar, but everyone can play soccer. It’s a great sport. It keeps you in shape. And she’s met a lot of friends. We’re all proud. The whole family is excited.”


Photo: Clare Shepherd/Starfinder Foundation


  1. John Ling says:

    Congrats to these kids! What an awesome opportunity!

  2. Go on Sierra!

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