Soccer is one of Gulliver Prep senior Alvaro Gonzalez Rico’s passions. He is captain of the Gulliver varsity soccer team and plays for his club team, the Coral Gables Toros.
He started playing soccer as a child so helping autistic children by playing soccer with them is a natural fit. Gonzalez Rico is president of Go Out and Love Soccer (GOALS), a community service club at Gulliver.
“It makes me feel happy to see them happy,” he says. “It’s a really cool experience.”
Gonzalez Rico joined the club in ninth grade when he started at Gulliver. This is his second year as president.
“We have around seven events a year,” he says. “Normally, more the beginning of the year, once a month, sometimes twice.”
Twenty to 50 autistic children come to the soccer play dates at Gulliver. After playing, everyone has breakfast together.
They also go rock climbing with the children. He’s working on making sure rock climbing is included in this year’s event schedule. He puts in three to five hours a week working on the events.
“We’re trying to have more events each year and we are trying to involve more of the school,” he says.
A few weeks ago, they had a pajama collection drive. The class that collected the most pajamas and socks would receive a prize.
The competition was successful – they collected more than 50 pounds of pajamas and socks that will be donated to area children’s hospitals, including Baptist, Nicklaus, Holtz and DiMaggio. The Junior Class took the prize, a Free Jeans Day.
Gonzalez Rico is originally from Madrid but moved to Paris and lived there for 11 years before moving to Miami. When he arrived, he didn’t speak English. He had studied it in school but learned grammar basics.
“It was difficult for me,” he says. “I just knew hello. I was put in the highest level of classes. I was challenged. I did my best and I was fine.”
He learned to speak fluently by talking to his teachers and friends in English.
“I did not have any tutoring. I just tried to talk to every person,’ he says. “I could read and write at a really slow pace.”
He’s gifted with the ability to learn languages. He’s now fluent in four languages – English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. He plans to learn a fifth language in college. He hopes to attend a program that requires a year abroad and would like to spend that year in Italy. At Gulliver, Gonzalez Rico is a member of the Portuguese Club and president of the French Club.
“This club is mainly to spread awareness of the French language,” he says.
His ability with languages has earned him the position of Ambassador for the Language Department. He represents them at events and he’s even been part of the interview process for new language teachers.
Gonzalez Rico is a member of the Cum Laude Society, the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Ro Kappa, the history honor society.
He plans to try out for the Gulliver tennis team. In France he played national and international tennis tournaments and at ten was the French Tennis Champion.
“I had to choose between soccer and tennis I chose soccer,” he says.
He applied early decision to the Huntsman program at the University of Pennsylvania. If chosen, he’ll earn a bachelor’s in business from the Wharton School of Business and a bachelor’s in International Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences.
He wants to major in economics and finances and minor in engineering.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld