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Inner city rugby club returns from U.K.

March 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Local high school athletes are back from a trip to England, where they played rugby against the best team in the country where the sport originated. The trip by the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) high school rugby team was about much more than rugby for south L.A. athletes. They are pioneering the sport in their charter schools.When the bus stops at Jesse Owens Park, there is evidence that the 12 ICEF rugby players have just returned from England. One student now wears a tie, as was required when attending the British school. And everywhere there's a new awareness.

"And how the community is, it's kind of hard to get a group of African American people to go to a different country and play a sport that we're not even used to," said sophomore Darrius Spears. "I thought it was amazing, pretty amazing to me."

ICEF, which stands for the Inner City Education Foundation, operates 13 public charter schools and started L.A.'s first inner city rugby program, sending students around the world on rugby scholarships. This year: England.

Darrius and the rest of the team didn't count on playing rugby in the snow, but they managed a game at Wellington, playing one of the best high school teams in England.

"I think they're just a little bit more confident because they've been somewhere, done something, come back and they're fine, and they had a huge success there," said ICEF rugby coach David Hughes.

When snow curtailed rugby, the teams played basketball, because the experience was about more than rugby.

"All my life I've grown up in L.A., and not really seen the outside world and going to England really expanded my horizon," said freshman Solomon Jacobs.

ICEF started the rugby program to broaden the students' chances for college scholarships.

"First I played football as well, and track, but just learning how to play rugby just lets you know there's more opportunities than just playing these other sports," said junior Leon Garrett. "Gets you more opportunities for scholarships."

Players were chosen for the trip not only for their rugby skills, but for their academics as well.

The message to the students overall is that to see more of the world like they saw in England, the ticket is a higher education.

For ICEF's charter students, many tickets have already been punched. Of the two graduating classes, all have been accepted to college.


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