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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hudson family, classmates working to keep Alvirne soccer standout Raul Stedile in US

HUDSON – Raul Stedile was an honor roll student and one of the state’s premier midfielders for the 2013-14 school year.

This year, he’s already been barred from practicing with his boys soccer teammates as the fall season kicks off, and now he will be denied entrance to Alvirne High School when classes start Tuesday in Hudson. ...

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HUDSON – Raul Stedile was an honor roll student and one of the state’s premier midfielders for the 2013-14 school year.

This year, he’s already been barred from practicing with his boys soccer teammates as the fall season kicks off, and now he will be denied entrance to Alvirne High School when classes start Tuesday in Hudson.

An exchange student from Brazil, Stedile’s academic visa has been under review since last school year ended.

The family of Alvirne senior Brett Richardson, Stedile’s host family in the U.S., has been working closely with Alvirne Athletic Director Karen Bonney to resolve the issue since the school department submitted paperwork to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on May 20. The submitted application would transfer Stedile’s status from J-1 (exchange visitor program) to F-1 (academic visa).

“All I can really say at this point is that the process was initiated in May,” Alvirne A.D. Bonney said. “There have been a series of events that have caused delays. Until it’s resolved, he’s not allowed to attend school or participate in school activities.

From the school’s point of view, he is welcome in class and on the soccer field.

“It’s not a matter of us not wanting him here. It’s a government procedural thing,”Bonney said. “For me, the most important thing is getting this all squared away so he can attend school.”

Deanne Richardson, who has been hosting Stedile, explained the process, and where the mistake was made that resulted in the denial of Stedile’s status transfer for this school year.

“He decided he wanted to stay for another year and become the first in his family to graduate from a U.S. high school, and eventually attend a U.S. college,” Richardson said. “So we worked with Alvirne High School to make sure it was properly certified to allow students with a status to attend classes. That went smoothly.”

Securing his academic visa was another story.

Problems arose when Stedile returned home to Brazil for the summer around the time the initial exchange-program visa expired on June 30. Filing for his visa status transfer had already been processed at that point and, according to the law, Stedile should not have left the country while the transfer was under review.

“The school had submitted all the paperwork on May 20, and according to the website it’s about a 60-day process,” Deanne Richardson said. “So he went back home for the summer, which we thought was the right thing to do, since his original visa was expiring on June 30. He came back after six weeks at home with his family and I thought, ‘It’s been longer than 60 days since we started the procedure.’ That’s when we went to the website to check the status, and where it once said, ‘In process,’ it now said, ‘Denied.’ ”

After a phone call to the USCIS, a letter explaining the reason for the denial was sent to Stedile at the Richardson’s home.

The denial notice sent to Stedile dated Aug. 21, stated: “A change of status may not be approved for an alien who failed to maintain the previously accorded status or whose status expired before the application or petition was filed.”

The letter informed Stedile that he abandoned his application when he left the country, and it was denied for that reason.

The letter also said that the decision can’t be appealed, but if there is a disagreement with the outcome, a motion to reopen, reconsider or reopen and reconsider can be made within 33 days of the date of the denial notice.

Richardson is heartbroken, but she also admits that the USCIS is simply following its own procedures. She’s just hoping there is still some way to rectify the situation.

“The USCIS has done everything right by the law, and they have been very helpful with getting us information,” Richardson said. “We are hopeful that Raul will still be able to get a visa by either going back to Brazil and reapplying, or by some other avenue we have not tried in the U.S.”

Attending Alvirne and making new friends in the classroom and on the athletic field was a dream come true for Stedile.

In the classroom he achieved honor-roll status. On the soccer field, Stedile became one of the Granite State’s top players last fall. He controlled the midfield for Alvirne.

“He is smooth with the ball and could always see two to three passes ahead,” coach Jeff Blackwell said. “He always seemed to get the assist to the assist.”

He scored five goals and assisted on eight more last season, including a header that tied the game with less than 11 seconds remaining in regulation – and then assisting on the game-winning goal in overtime – during the Broncos’ 3-2 Division I semifinals win over Manchester Central.

“I was like, ‘No, this isn’t possible,’ ” Stedile said at the time, after scoring the equalizer with a flick of the head. “It’s like a dream. It’s like a movie. It was the last ball of the game. If we can’t score on that corner kick we are all done for the season. It wasn’t a great goal, but it was special.”

Now, according to Alvirne teammates and classmates on Twitter, that dream is morphing into something not as celebratory. Trending on Twitter over the last two days has been the hashtag “LetRaul
Stay.”

Spearheaded by Brett Richardson and Nate Gosselin, “#LetRaulStay” has been sent out across the social media landscape, including tweets to President Barrack Obama and Brazilian national soccer team star forward Neymar.

With the return of Richardson and Stedile this fall, the Broncos were considered a favorite to return to the Division I final with a chance to avenge a 2-0 loss to Hanover in last season’s title game. They open the 2014 season Wednesday in Hudson, with a rematch of that 2013 semifinal against the Little Green.

Despite his athletic prowess, both Bonney and Deanne Richardson are concerned with Stedile’s education first and foremost.

“We still have hope that Raul will be able to attend Alvirne and receive a diploma so that he can achieve his ultimate goal of graduating with a college degree in the U.S.,” Richardson said. “This is with the hope that a college degree from the U.S. will make for a much better life when he returns to Brazil.”

George Scione can be reached at 594-6520 or gscione@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Scione on Twitter (@Telegraph_BigG).