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By Morgan Ellis

September 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of award-winning investigative journalist Paul Cuadros’ A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America—a book that chronicles the founding of a high school soccer program in Siler City, North Carolina, and the team’s 2004 state championship season.

His efforts to establish that team, creating opportunities for high school-aged Latinos, have, to a certain extent, mirrored his work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cuadros is a driving force for Latina/o issues on Carolina’s campus—where he has been a professor at the School of Media and Journalism since 2007.

His work with the Scholars’ Latino Initiative (SLI)—a program that provides higher education opportunities to North Carolina Latina/o high school students—has helped hundreds of Latina/o youth attend college. In 2015, he helped bring to campus the first SLI executive director—Ricky Hurtado ’11—through a grant from the Oak Foundation.

“A goal has been to make SLI self-sustaining and more professional,” Cuadros said. “So far, it’s been a great success.”

With Cuadros’ leadership, the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative (CLC)—an organization he co-founded in 2009 to build collaborative relationships across campus and in the surrounding community with a focus on Latina/o affairs—is also in the midst of exciting progress. The CLC is working to secure its status as a center, gaining more autonomy as it’s currently under Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, a unit of the Division of Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement. As a center, it will transcend the boundaries of academic departments to strengthen and enrich the Carolina community through its Latina/o issues-focused mission.

Outside Carolina’s campus, Cuadros continues to be a force for Latina/o high schoolers through the Jordan-Matthews High School soccer team he helped found a decade ago. He still coaches; the 2015-2016 team made it to the state quarterfinals. And A Home on the Field has gone well beyond the printed page to offer insights to new audiences.

LosJetsPortrait_Photo_by_Pat_Davison-1400This past April, the North Carolina Museum of History debuted “Los Jets: Playing for the American Dream”—a National Endowment for the Humanities- and American Library Association-sponsored exhibit that looks back at the championship season. Some 15 items—including the championship trophy and ball, as well as jerseys—are on display through Oct. 2, 2016.

In 2014, the book helped launch a television documentary series, “Los Jets,” which followed five Latino soccer players, including two who were undocumented, on a more recent version of the Jordan-Matthews High School team. The series, which aired on NUVOtv and was produced by superstar Jennifer Lopez, garnered national coverage and praise from publications that included The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press. In 2009, Carolina selected the book for its Summer Reading Program.

If Cuadros and “Los Jets” director Mark Landsman find a financial backer, a feature-length film could be in the works, too. Their screenplay is already written.

LosJetsTeam-Hands_Photo_by_Pat_Davison-1400The story still intrigues Cuadros. It’s one that captures a historical moment in rural North Carolina. It’s about immigration, but it’s a story with a significant historical marker—the first predominantly Hispanic team to win a state championship.

When he looks at this year’s team, he sees a different team than the one that won in 2004.

“What’s great about this team’s progression is you see this sort of American immigrant experience played out over time,” he said.

Thanks to Cuadros, that experience, in part, is progressing through his work on the field and at Carolina.

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