Eriberto Saavedra Felix's Universal Language

Eriberto Saavedra Felix

Nearly every Friday for the past two years you could find Eriberto Saavedra Felix playing pickup soccer on the University of Washington campus.

Eriberto and anyone who wanted to play would roll a ball out onto a field near Husky Stadium, lace up their boots and play the beautiful game. Sometimes serious games. But, always fun.

Those Friday afternoons were about more than winning and losing, but also about being part of a community.

"I’ve learned that soccer itself is a language," said Eriberto, who grew up in SeaTac. "It really does bring people together. Maybe we don’t speak the same language, but we don’t need to in order to play and have fun – we’ve had students from all over the world – from China to Africa – play with us.

"I don’t need to know their language to play the game. We see the ball, point at it and the game gets going."

Soccer has always been an important part of Eriberto’s life, and the sport is taking him places he only dreamt about as a child.

From playing club ball growing up to getting involved as a middle schooler with the RAVE Foundation’s Sports Media Institute to becoming a mentor with the Sports Media Institute to summer internship work with RAVE Foundation and most recently as a matchday assistant for the Sounders.

"Ever since I connected with RAVE in seventh grade, doors started to open," he said. "I grew up with a tunnel vision about wanting to play soccer professionally, but through RAVE I started to see soccer and sports from a different standpoint. I saw a glimpse of that with the Sports Media Institute, but it wasn’t until I got my internship at RAVE that I really saw that there is way more to sports than just being on the field."

Eriberto was a part of the inaugural Sports Media Institute group as an eighth grader and enjoyed it so much, he asked if he could come back the next year. The program was only designed to be completed once, but his willingness to help other kids convinced program director Reid Sundblad to bend the rules.

"Eri was there to guide kids through the conflicts of middle school life and any struggles they faced in class," Sundblad said. "Even in high school, he’d come back and meet with me and the students and talk to them about how to navigate school and life."

Eriberto’s work with RAVE helped him develop skills in marketing, advertising and communications. Getting a chance to see how to navigate the business world at a young age has paid off for him in his college studies and, he hopes, in his future career.

"The internship helped me develop confidence with my communication skills," he said. "I’ve been able to use that to my advantage and speak with more confidence and conviction in professional settings."

Eriberto grew up with two parents who immigrated from Mexico, who worked hard building a new life in Washington state. They instilled both a tremendous work ethic in their son and a love for soccer.

That work ethic has helped him get good grades, graduate high school with his associate’s degree thanks to Running Start, a program that allows high school students to take concurrent college credit classes, and to have the ability to (very soon) graduate from UW in just two years.

All of that, combined with his experiences with the Sounders and the RAVE Foundation, have given him a true appreciation for the impact he can have in Seattle and beyond.

"I want people from my community to know that there are people out there willing to help, if you are willing to seek it out and if you are willing to constantly work on yourself," Eriberto said. "I want to be an example and offer guidance and mentorship myself rather than just graduating and being happy with that."

The impact he has already had in the local soccer world is evident from talking to those who have worked with him, including Sundblad who is now the Youth Curriculum and Initiatives Manager for the RAVE Foundation.

"He has always been a natural leader," Sundblad said. "Kids his age, his peers, kind of hold him in high regard. He is so driven and goal oriented and the younger guys see that and want to follow him.

"Eri is a kind-hearted person who wants people to be successful."

Eriberto will graduate from UW in Spring 2024 with a degree in communications. While he doesn’t have a job lined up yet, he hopes it involves the sport that has given him so much.

"If I could have that opportunity to be part of RAVE Foundation and Seattle Sounders and how they give back to the community, I would for sure want it," he said. "Soccer has really helped propel me to where I’m at now. It is powerful and I want to use that power to help support and uplift marginalized communities."