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Inmates graduate from Miami FC program aimed at teaching soccer, life skills

Inmates graduate from Miami FC training program
Inmates graduate from Miami FC training program 03:05

MIAMI - Miami FC is leaving its mark on South Florida, off the pitch.

Two of their academy coaches have spent the past couple of months training inmates to play soccer, but it's more than that.

The 'Twinning Project' has changed the inmates' lives and on Thursday, they graduated from the program.

For 12 weeks, three hours a week, 16 athletes have been playing soccer. It was three months of hard work for inmates from the Dade Correctional Institute,

"What you've learned through this program, you will be able to pass on to other people," says Twinning Project CEO Hilton Freund.

The Twinning Project aims to teach incarcerated people life skills through sports and give them hope for the future.

"A lot of people that give their time to us. You know, a lot of time we're forgot about," says inmate Keyn'o Walker.

Miami FC soccer academy coaches have been here day in and day out training and teaching them. 

"We didn't know nothing about these guys, we had never seen you know, their files, what they did or what they haven't done. But little by little, just getting to know them as people, those reservations came down," says Miami FC Academy coach Diego Montalvan.

Walker says, "At first, it was something to do. I actually came to like it. So, I just stuck with it."

For 21-year-old Keyn'o Walker, it's a way to remember his life before he got into trouble.

"You know, usually I have my ups and downs. And then you know, when you get to playing soccer every week, and stuff like that. You go to smiling more, you start noticing the different aura.

He grew up playing football and basketball. He never thought he would play or enjoy soccer...but this program has been life-changing. 

"A light bulb went off and I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate as much as I can, that I've learned back into society and giving back."

"It's not only drills on the soccer field. Sure, they know the ins and outs of the game now, but it's deeper than just sports." 

"Your heart got to be in it. You know, you don't, you can't really currently hide it. You got to cooperate with everyone, and it kind of brings out the best in you."

"You definitely see that growth in most of these guys," John Sands says, who's using this as an opportunity.

"Even though I started life wrong. I'm going to end it on the right note and this help and there's people that I would like to make amends to and all that I do it indirectly. Now I try to help people that are around me."

John now mentors the younger guys, like Walker, and wants to continue to pay it forward. 

"I kind of see a vision of incorporating soccer into it. I want to open up my own barbershop. So, how I look at it like I may start a new team and all my kids get free haircuts."

Twinning Project CEO Hilton Freund says, "A life of incarceration should not be a wasted life. And that if we as a community and society do not invest in these people, and use the time we have with them to rehabilitate them. We cannot expect them to be different people when they get out.

Miami FC and the Twinning Project changed these men's lives, the difference they saw from day one to graduation day, today, is astonishing. 

This is the first Twinning Project class in the United States and they're hopeful to have many more here.

Miami FC host Sacramento Republic FC, on Saturday at 7 p.m. on TV33.

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