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Distinguished Alumni: Lisa Wrightsman lifted herself – now she uses soccer to lift others

Former Sac State soccer player Lisa Wrightsman, who this month will receive a Distinguished Service Award, co-founded Street Soccer Sacramento, which serves individuals struggling with homelessness, at-risk youth, and other underrepresented populations. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Lisa Wrightsman didn’t leave Sacramento State in a good place. A soccer star for the Hornets, her struggle to find herself when she was away from the field ultimately led to homelessness and substance abuse.

“My first time back on the campus was having to make an amend – for the 12-step program – to the athletic director,” Wrightsman said.

An alumni soccer game a few months later changed things. She reconnected with her alma mater. She also met her future wife, fellow Hornet soccer player Tiffany Fraser, with whom she co-founded Sacramento’s chapter of Street Soccer USA, a national organization serving individuals struggling with homelessness, at-risk youth, and other underrepresented populations.

“We’re just trying to lift up everybody.” -- Lisa Wrightsman, co-founder of Street Soccer Sacramento

For her accomplishments, Wrightsman will receive a Distinguished Service Award from the Sac State Alumni Association, an honor given to graduates who have achieved prominence in their fields and brought distinction to the University or community through their work. She and other noted alumni will be honored during a celebration and dinner on Thursday, Oct. 13. 

“I was kind of shocked. It’s awesome. I love it,” Wrightsman said. “I feel very special in how Sac State’s been acknowledging me and the work we’re doing.”

Street Soccer allows people who don’t otherwise have access to team sports to enjoy a supportive atmosphere, learn life skills, and have fun. The organization serves people of all ages, and runs youth programs as well as monthly camps for young and teen girls that often feature Sac State players as coaches.

In 2020, the organization opened the Union Pacific Street Soccer USA Park in Sacramento’s Broadway district. In May, they partnered with Sac State to screen the documentary LFG. Equal Play. Equal Pay, about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s fight for equitable compensation.

Street Soccer’s momentum continues. A record 1,000 kids participated in programs this summer, and the organization has recently hired 23 new full- and part-time coaches. Many of the coaches are low-income, and some participated in the program as youths.

“We’re just trying to lift up everybody,” Wrightsman said.

Having left Sac State nearly two decades ago, Wrightsman said it makes her happy to collaborate with the University to create positive change in the community. And she’s quick to share credit for her alumni award.

“I always told myself, any media and any recognition is an opportunity to bring Street Soccer to the light, especially the people who have participated, and give them a chance to be seen too,” Wrightsman said. “I want everyone who's been a part of our program to feel like they're getting this (award) too.”

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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