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Way to Go! East Islip sophomore named Buddy of the Year

Bella Pepe, a sophomore at East Islip High

Bella Pepe, a sophomore at East Islip High School, has been named Buddy of the Year by TOPSoccer's East Region. Credit: Bella Pepe

An East Islip High School student has been recognized for her efforts volunteering as a soccer instructor for children with special needs.

Bella Pepe, a sophomore, has been named Buddy of the Year for TOPSoccer's East Region. TOPSoccer is a community-based training and team placement program for athletes with disabilities.

Pepe, 15, has volunteered as a soccer instructor for five years with Just For Kicks, a soccer program for special-needs youth within the Long Island Junior Soccer League. It was founded by her uncle Louis Pepe, who is also the founder of the East Islip Soccer Club's TOPSoccer Program.

"Sometimes this is the only outlet they have," Pepe said of special-needs children. "Just for Kicks is such a learning experience — for not only the kids, but for the instructors. And the longer you do it, the more things you learn."

While at Just for Kicks, Pepe has instructed William, a boy with autism, on a weekly basis for the past three years.

"She goes above and beyond to show the TOPSoccer players they belong on the field and she makes them feel special by acknowledging them," Louis said. "Bella is the epitome of everything and more of the type of young adult you want representing this prestigious award."

Pepe is also a member of her school's chorus and National Honor Society.

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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