Play, with a Purpose

Nahed Chapman New American Academy (NCNAA) is a St. Louis Public Schools facility located just south of SLU Hospital on the east side of South Grand. NCNAA is a transition school to help kids integrate into U.S. society.

It has 320 students ranging from primary school through 10th grade, slated to grow to 400 in coming years.

They are immigrants and refugees. many who have come directly from refugee camps and with no formal, structured education. Some are suffering PTSD from the things they witnessed before coming here. The student body represents 24 countries speaking many languages. The student body has one common language: the international sport of soccer.

The construction industry, along with other organizations is rallying around these students to give them a safe place to “speak” (play) that “language”.  Sports and recreation have been shown to relieve the stresses associated with the significant changes the children have experienced.

But what began as an effort to pave a broken urban playground has morphed into much more — so much more that it incorporated as a Missouri not-for-profit corporation, which is filing for federal 501(c)3 status. 

The organization’s bylaws state its purpose as,“To make the St. Louis Metropolitan Area a welcoming place for foreign-born immigrants and refugees, and their families.” It is envisioned as having a life far beyond the initial project. Educators and other organizations in areas including STEM, sustainability, public health, and urban gardening are involved in the new organization.

NCNAA students work with coaches from Scott Gallagher Soccer on the existing play surface.