The Gray twins grew up in East Palo Alto, California during a time when the city was plagued by gun violence and drugs. They were raised by a single mother. Their father, who struggled with drugs and alcohol, was incarcerated, and later moved out of state. During their tumultuous upbringing, they experienced homelessness and often had to sleep on the floors and couches of close relatives. Thanks to soccer and the support of their club soccer coach, who served as a trusted father figure, they were able to enroll at the Woodside Priory — a boarding school in Portola Valley. To avoid their situation at home, they would arrive at both their school and club team practices two hours early for extra training. Despite their difficult living circumstances, they excelled both in the classroom and on the pitch, with Amaya earning defender of the year honors and Anysa recognized as forward of the year.
As freshmen at Cal, in the early days of the pandemic they were faced with the devastating reality of losing soccer, the most consistent and stable outlet in their lives. With counseling and the support of friends, they persevered through this daunting time. In spring 2021, in just her second collegiate game, Anysa suffered a severe concussion. She could not play soccer, attend classes, or read for seven months. She still feels the lingering effects of her injury today. Incredibly, though, she bounced back from the injury last fall and was named to the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll.
On top of their rigorous academic course loads at Cal, to help pay rent, Anysa is currently balancing three jobs as a dog walker, nanny, and tutor, while Amaya works from 6 p.m. to midnight three nights a week. Through it all, the Gray twins have made a significant impact on the Cal women’s soccer team, playing a combined 60 games and tallying six goals and 14 points. Additionally, although both girls were not on scholarship their first two years, this year Amaya earned a scholarship from the Isabella Hill Perkins Soccer Scholarship Fund, while Anysa was awarded the Jeff Kent Women Driven Scholarship.
“When trying to persevere through adversity, counseling and therapy are musts,” explained Amaya. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for counseling and therapy, I don’t think we would have been able to gain the mental strength to get through the hardships we’ve experienced.”
“CalHOPE is honored to recognize student-athletes throughout the state who, despite setbacks, have overcome life’s challenges to continue to perform their best as both scholars and athletes. CalHOPE’s purpose is to build community resiliency and help people recover through free outreach, crisis counseling, and support services. We hope that by sharing these stories that student-athletes have experienced, we will all be inspired.”
Dr. Jim Kooler, Special Consultant for DHCS