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United Way of Lancaster County


AFC Lancaster Lions soccer club receives state education grant

(Source: AFC Lancaster Lions)

A local soccer program is receiving a state grant to support development of a community education program.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced earlier this month that it is awarding $127,174 to the All Football Club (AFC) Lancaster Lions through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The grant is one of 61 totaling more than $27 million statewide.

The initiative supports community learning centers that provide “academic, artistic, and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.”

The AFC Lancaster Lions organization was the sole awardee in Lancaster County in the latest round of grants, the 12th round to date. The most recent local awardee prior to that was La Academia Charter School, which received $285,000 in the 10th round.

The Lancaster Lions’ program will support multilingual high school students in the School District of Lancaster who demonstrate “academic support needs,” founder and CEO Brian Ombiji said.

“The programming offered will focus on providing language acquisition support, cultural enrichment activities, academic tutoring, technology education, and youth development activities opportunities,” he said, with services offered after school and on Saturdays.

Ombiji, a native of Kenya and former pro soccer player, founded the Lancaster Lions in 2015. It is a development soccer club, focused on training high-performing players while building character.

In 2020, he applied to the School District of Lancaster for permission to found the AFCLL Academy Charter School, described as “an elite level academics and sports education experience.” SDL board said the application was deficient on multiple fronts and voted unanimously against it that October. Nevertheless, two months later the U.S. Department of Education awarded the club a grant of up to $1.2 million to pursue its charter school plans.

It was never launched, however. In an email to One United Lancaster, Ombiji said the charter school idea “has been put on hold indefinitely.”

“We have since shifted our energy to the current needs of community-based enrichment programs,” he said.

Meanwhile, the core sports program is continuing to expand. One development is “Little Lions,” a program for ages 4 to 8. Ombiji said it is designed to introduce them to soccer “in a fun and supportive environment,” while fostering teamwork, skill building and confidence.

On Saturday, May 18, AFC Lancaster Lions will host the Lions Cup Spring Invitational tournament. The one-day event is for boys’ teams, with age categories ranging from U-8 to U-18. The registration fee is $300 per team; the signup form is here.

“We believe this tournament will not only showcase the talents of our young athletes but also promote a sense of unity and sportsmanship within our community,” Ombiji said.