Trumbull teen uses love of ceramics, soccer to help others

TRUMBULL — Not all teen athletes would sacrifice a meal to make pottery, but Matthew Wich has done it multiple times.

The Trumbull High School junior and soccer player has loved ceramics since he took a class in it freshman year.

“Last year, I was skipping lunches to go to the pottery room to throw pieces,” Wich said. “You can always improve. You can always learn more.”

His love of ceramics has led him to craft roughly 30 pieces. While he loves to create, Wich soon realized that there could be a greater purpose for his passion.

During his sophomore year, he began applying for 501 (c)(3) status for a nonprofit that eventually became Ceramics for Soccer. Through the program, Wich sells his ceramics pieces to raise money for the Aspiras Foundation, which provides gear and monetary donations to soccer clubs in the Dominican Republic. So far, Wich said, he has sold 11 pieces and raised about $500 between sales and other donations.

He came up with the fundraiser as a way to merge two things he loves — ceramics and soccer — to help others.

“Development and developing countries is something I’ve learned a lot about in school,” Wich said.

Wich added that he’s also learned that soccer can be a valuable outlet for young people in developing countries. The Aspiras Foundation web site echoes this idea, telling the story of how the nonprofit began with two Western Michigan University students collecting soccer gear for clubs in low-income areas of the Dominican Republic.

“By investing our time and efforts into educating and providing unprecedented opportunity in any way we can to the children of soccer clubs within developing communities, we hope to empower them to aspire for great goals and achievement,” the site reads. “The future of developing areas in the Dominican Republic rests in the hands of the children, so we want to give them the tools to bring positive change to their communities.”

Soccer has always been an important part of Wich’s life too. He said he started playing in Trumbull’s American Youth Soccer Organization when he was 4 or 5 years old.

“I’ve played ever since,” he said, adding that he now plays on the Trumbull High soccer team.

Once he learned about Aspiras, and the role that soccer can play in molding kids’ lives, he wanted to help. And ceramics seemed like a good way a to do it, Wich said.

“A lot of people have said this is a great venture for me,” he said.

Among those supporting him is his ceramics teacher Trevor Youngberg, who said he’s enjoyed watching Wich’s passion for ceramics grow over the years.

“Matt immediately took to the wheel and showed a keen interest in mastering the basic skills of centering, pulling and shaping clay on the potter's wheel,” Youngberg said. “Once Matt gained an ability to meet and surpass the forms that resided in his minds eye, he was hooked.”

Youngberg said he’s watched with interest as Wich has used ceramics as the cornerstone of his nonprofit.

“I’m proud to witness Matt’s personal and creative development as he pursues his gifts and passions,” he said.

Wich said he’ll continue with Ceramics for Soccer as long as he can — or at least as long as he has access to a pottery studio.

“I have no intention of ever letting this end unless I have to,” he said.