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Seen and Heard: ’40-something’ soccer player shows how it’s done

January 14, 2019
Anna Park, of John Marshall High School, received a Better Business Bureau Student of Integrity Scholarship.

This past December, Dr. Rafael (Rafa) Sierra, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, tried out to play with the Rochester Football Club, a member of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL), one of soccer’s “fastest growing leagues.”

Sierra shared that the UPSL league aims to promote soccer in Rochester and southern Minnesota with a team roster that is filled with local players. He said that soccer has “exploded” locally and this brand-new team will support the growth of the sport not only with the Rochester Football Club team, but with youth development teams, too.

While the roster is comprised of mostly 16- to 25-year-olds, 40-something Sierra not only brings skill but leadership to the field. At the tryouts, an 18-year-old asked Sierra how long he had been playing soccer. Upon hearing the answer (35 years), the young man was awed by the experience Sierra brings to the team.

Despite an ACL tear and surgery in 2016, Sierra continues to play the game he loves. He is especially proud that after two years of hard work and rehabilitation, he returned to his “previous level of competition.”

Sierra’s soccer history includes playing in high school and college, and joining a medical school team. He has played amateur soccer in Rochester for 18 years, including five years as a captain.

Beyond local soccer, Sierra was invited to play on the Colombian Medical School soccer team in 2015. He and his teammates played in the World Medical Football Championship (WMFC) in Long Beach, Calif.

WMFC is a World Cup-style event with physician players representing their countries in friendly competition. Sierra has continued to play on the Colombian team, playing in the WMFC in 2016 (Barcelona, Spain), 2017 (Leogang, Austria), and 2018 (Prague, Czech Republic).

Sierra and his teammates will begin practicing in March, five nights a week. The Rochester Football Club will kickoff its season with games beginning in May.

Student of integrity

John Marshall High School senior Anna Park recently received a Student of Integrity Scholarship from the Better Business Bureau.

She was one of five winners selected from among the numerous essays received from high school seniors in Minnesota and North Dakota. Park was tasked with writing about her understanding of ethics and the impact personal integrity has had on her.

In describing the essence of her essay, Park said, “Having grown up in a largely Asian community back in California, I was wholly unprepared to be the cultural and racial minority in Minnesota. I was often faced with racial comments at school.”

Park has not only had racially and culturally insensitive comments directed at her, she has found herself overhearing such statements.

Park went on to say, “By understanding their life experiences, I found myself able to accept and forgive my peers when they made ignorant comments. That one shift in my perspective helped me to become more open-minded; I was able to both accept and forgive my peers when they made ignorant comments, and I was able to firmly correct false stereotypes with respect and humility.”

Park hopes to “better educate and mentor those around me about the importance of debunking false stereotypes and fostering unity within my community.”

In addition to writing, Park also keeps busy with her many extracurriculars including band, speech team, Key Club, and National Honor Society; working as a Korean school teacher at her church, volunteering at the Rochester Public Library, and serving as a mentee under a local juvenile delinquency judge.

After high school graduation, Park plans to attend college (“hopefully escaping the brutal winters of Minnesota”) and then to attend law school.

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