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‘I went to school… then back to the shelter:’ Coach helps student on, off the field

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SEATTLE -- For every player who steps onto the Garfield High School football field there’s a saying: “all in.”

“Since I was a little boy I wanted to play ball,” said Carrington, a freshman linebacker.

Carrington says his teammates are like family. It’s a bond built over time with trust and that’s what gave the 14-year-old freshman the courage to talk about his life off of the field.

“In the shelter everyone woke up at six because you had to leave,” said Carrington.  “And then I went to school, practice, and then went back to the shelter.”

Hardly anyone knew that he was bouncing around between the home of a family member and homeless shelters. He then confided in his football coach.

“The last conversation that really kind of broke my heart he was living in downtown Seattle and had lived at the tents city and it just blew my mind,” said Garfield High School Coach Derek Sparks.

Sparks says he then received what he described as a “God call.” His phone rang and he was asked if he could provide a stable home for the freshman football player.  For the past several months, he’s allowed Carrington to stay in a spare bedroom at his home.

“He says thank you a lot and I always tell him you don’t have to thank me.  I feel like I was placed here for a reason,” said Coach Sparks.

Coach Sparks says he was surprised to learn how many other students are dealing with unstable living situations at his high school.

“You have to realize most of the shelters are downtown and so Garfield would be the ideal place students would come to,” said Principal Ted Howard.

At Garfield High School, Principal Howard keeps track of nearly 100 students who are considered homeless. Howard says the school tries to help those students.  That includes making sure they always get meals. The high school also gives them free prom tickets and school volunteers help raise money to purchase gift cards during the holidays.

Howard says what Coach Sparks is doing is a game-changer.

For Carrington, he’s thankful that he can depend on his coach and that’s why he considers his teammates and coach family.

“I really feel grateful that somebody, actually, someone cares about me,” said Carrington.

Coach Sparks added “He’s impacted me more than I think he knows.”

Coach Sparks, who is also a career counselor at Garfield, wants to help out other students. He’s starting a new organization to help teens. It is called the “House of Champions.”

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