Anton currently attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he studies Economics and Computer Science. A Canadian-American from Iowa City, Iowa, Anton first visited Cuba in 2015 when he lived there during a gap year after graduating high school.
During his first three months in Cuba, Anton studied Spanish at the University of Havana where he met people from all over the world with unique stories, experiences, and perspectives. Despite being an exciting and enjoyable experience, Anton found himself desiring a more profound relationship with the country he was living in. He quickly developed deep admiration for the Cuban people, and was motivated to gain a more profound experience and delve deeper into Cuban culture.
After three months of classes at the University of Havana, Anton reached out to a local community organization called Artecorte. Founded by Cuba’s most well-known barber, and one of its leading entrepreneurs, Artecorte devotes itself to preparing members of its community for Cuba’s growing private sector, while maintaining social values and inspiring entrepreneurial thinking. Keeping a broad scope, Artecorte provides services to its community in a variety of ways; from a free school for deaf students to learn the art of hair styling, to constructing a barber-themed playground for the community's children.
In his time with Artecorte, Anton was surrounded by people with unique and inspiring ideas on how to improve the world around them. As a volunteer, his own contribution was translation work for visiting volunteers, teaching free English classes, and closest to his heart, developing a youth soccer team.
In the last six months of Anton’s time in Cuba, he experienced both the fulfillment and frustrations of coaching youth athletics. Teaming up with a Cuban coach, Anton went to local schools, inviting all kids who were interested in playing for a team. From this core group, Anton and his fellow coach formed a team that practiced five days a week and participated in team-building activities.
Through this experience Anton was able to learn a lot about Cuban culture. He formed close relationships with the members of Artecorte and the kids with whom he coached. His time as a soccer coach, however, was certainly not all smooth sailing. After months of training five days a week, the work had become a bit tiresome and repetitive. Kids were in and out of the team, and each practice had turned from warm-ups and drills to one long scrimmage.
These difficulties inspired Anton to take a step back and consider why such problems were being faced. The most significant observation he had was that in all the time they spent training, the team only ever participated in one competition: a less-than-well organized event where half of the teams failed to show up. The opportunity for competition seemed non-existent, and the one time it did come around, it lacked quality and organization.
Despite these challenges, Anton found himself in love with Cuba. It gave him the opportunity to challenge himself in ways previously unknown to him. Every day was exciting and a chance to grow in a new way. He formed profound friendships, spoke Spanish in the streets rather than in classroom, and spent the entirety of his days among Cubans. He felt he was truly living in a country, and not just doing an exchange there.
Since leaving, Anton has longed to return to the island and be a part of something significant and lasting. Those sentiments led him to the vision he has now for La Liga en Cuba. The connection Anton has with the people of Artecorte remain strong, and Anton feels both the pride and the privilege being an American who experienced Cuba in the way he did. Few foreigners, let alone those from the United States, get the opportunity to delve as deep as he did into Cuban society. In a time when Cuba is opening up to the world, and the relationship between Cuba and the US is beginning to change, Anton finds himself with a deep desire, and perhaps self-obligation, to build on a time of his life that had such an impact on him.