MOUNT OLIVE — Paul Cuadros’ book A Home on the Field: How One Championship Soccer Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America was this year’s common reading selection for the University of Mount Olive freshmen class. The book chronicles award-winning journalist and author Cuadros and his decision to start up a soccer team in an increasingly Hispanic public school.
The story is set in Siler City where a large number of Latinos had migrated to work in the local chicken processing plants. Cuadros writes of how the soccer team struggled not only to win acceptance within the town but also on a playing field dominated by white soccer organizations. It’s a heartwarming, important story with many parallels to issues in towns all over North Carolina and the country.
The goal of the common reading selection is to engage first-year students in intellectual inquiry that encourages students to explore personal, racial, religious, and cultural issues. A Home on the Field was selected over 40 books reviewed by the selection committee
“The common reading experience of A Home on the Field has been an integral part of the freshman seminar class. The book gives the incoming freshmen a shared reading experience, influences discussions on many current and controversial topics, focuses on the importance of reading as part of an academic setting, and forces students to confront cultural biases and local issues,” explained Jackie Hill, chair of the Common Reading Selection Committee and instruction librarian at UMO.
Throughout the fall semester freshmen students participated in a variety of activities aimed at helping them explore Latino migration, leadership, migrant work conditions, and the history of migration in North Carolina. Students also participated in small group discussions and provided thoughtful, written reflections on the book.
Gayla Olvera, a freshman psychology major from Wilson said, “I really enjoyed reading and discussing the book as a class. I was able to experience different perspectives of learning with the book. The entire experience opened my eyes to ideas that are important to today and to the future.”
“A Home on the Field opened me up to an entirely new perspective,” added Elise Tanner, a freshman biology major from Orange Park, Fla. “I admire Cuadros for his unwavering dedication and passion for the soccer team and for the Siler City community.”
The climax of the semester was held when Cuadros recently visited UMO and participated in the Meet the Author Event. The event was made possible in part by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment of the Humanities. Cuadros met with the freshmen class, the coaching staff, and the Mount Olive Community to discuss his book.
“It was an amazing experience to hear Cuadros personally explain the struggles that he went through in making the soccer program in Siler City successful and ultimately to hear about how they won a state championship title,” said Christopher Perez, a freshman business management major from Willow Springs. “It was also inspiring to hear him speak about overcoming the criticism from the people within the town.”
During his session with the athletic department staff, Cuadros elaborated on his coaching philosophies and discussed the hardships he overcame within the school administration at Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City.
Vice President of Athletics Jeff Eisen stated, “It was a beneficial experience for our athletic staff to participate in the common reading experience. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to unite and discuss many of the themes and issues of the book and how it relates to our athletic programs.”
Michael Munoz, a senior from Whittier, Calif., added, “A Home on the Field is an inspiring story of how Cuadros was able to transform not only a soccer team, but the views towards migrant workers in the small town of Siler City. It is so much more than a sports story. I think the students, the professors, and the Athletic Department enjoyed uniting in discussions revolved around this book.”