FRISCO, Texas - Tonight, Wednesday, May 27, FC Dallas hosted a virtual graduation ceremony, presented by Chase, for over 250 high school seniors who participated in its youth system this year.
With many traditional graduations affected by the COVID-19 shutdown, FC Dallas teamed up with Chase to give FCD's Class of 2020 a graduation experience they're unlikely to forget. The event was streamed on fcdallas.com/ClassOf2020 and the commencement speech was given by MLS great Taylor Twellman after FCD head coach Luchi Gonzalez, team president Dan Hunt and VP of FCD Youth Chris Hayden gave opening remarks.
"Your journey is only beginning and we’re all looking forward to watching you grow," Hunt said. "Just know you’ll always have a home here at FC Dallas. Our youth system is critical to who we are as a club. On behalf of the club and our family, I would like to thank you all for your accomplishments and commitments to the organization; and also to the game of soccer."
“This is your home,” Luchi added. “FC Dallas is your home, it’s your community, it’s your family. And that’s something special that we’re all in this together and here supporting each other to keep improving and accomplishing our goals. You are a part of FC Dallas forever. Good luck in your future endeavors and congratulations.”
Twellman began his commencement speech by asking the graduates to remember a quote: “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. And in that adversity, there are seeds of opportunity and growth.” For him, adversity meant a serious concussion which ended his soccer career as a 28-year-old. And while missing out on his prime years was almost too much to handle, the former MLS MVP inevitably found opportunity. Twellman founded ThinkTaylor.org in 2011, an organization dedicated to creating social change in the world of traumatic brain injuries through education.
While adversity can take many forms, it's pretty clear which one the Class of 2020 is facing.
“Look at where you are, where the world is right now," Twellman said. "The pandemic has no doubt changed what our normal life once was. And it’s also shown us what we used to take for granted. But it’s also given the younger generation, you, the opportunity to change our society for the better. You’re the future of our country and our sport. Your generation is going to be stronger and smarter because of this experience.”
FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann and North Texas SC forward Gibran Rayo were part of the 2020 graduating class of student-athletes; a class which Chris Hayden of FCD Youth described as "proud, resilient and innovative" during his opening address. Tessmann, who was signed as FCD's 28th Homegrown player in February, spoke on behalf of his class and shared some sage advice with his peers.
In addition to the graduation, FC Dallas – in partnership with Chase and CoServ – awarded $20,000 in scholarships to four of its student-athletes. Chase awarded FCD Youth player Bryan Bayles and Genaye Sanders of the FCD Girls' Academy $5,000 each for their education. Bayles is planning on studying business finance at BYU and Sanders will attend the University of Houston for biomedical engineering. Fellow FCD Youth players Ryan Hogg and Mariella Stephens each received $5,000 on behalf of CoServ. Hogg will attend the U.S. Naval Academy for nuclear engineering and Stephens is bound for the University of Arkansas where she will study speech pathology.
"We are honored to celebrate the accomplishments of this year's graduating class of FC Dallas student-athletes,” said Pete Chilian, Market Manager for J.P. Morgan’s Private Banking division in Dallas. “Chase is proud to partner with the FC Dallas Youth program and these student-athletes who have shown us all how to build character through soccer. 2020 seniors, we congratulate you and wish you all the best in your future careers and beyond!"