Class of 2020 Grad Goes from First-Gen Student to Pro Soccer Player

Photo of Kaio DaSilva and his mother.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 13, 2021) — Kaio DaSilva is living his childhood dream after signing a professional soccer contract with Chattanooga FC of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) and relocating to Chattanooga, Tennessee, this year.

Closer to home, DaSilva’s mother will soon be living out another dream, crossing the graduation stage on her son’s behalf during UAlbany’s Great Dane Graduation Experience next week.

DaSilva, a native of White Plains, and Class of 2020 graduate, was the first in his family to both attend and graduate from a university. After two years at Old Dominion University, he transferred to UAlbany in 2018 and was a starting defender on the men’s soccer team, netting six goals and six assists in 34 games. He earned his undergraduate degree in Communication with a minor in Portuguese last winter. 

Kaio DaSilva stands with his mother and sister at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
From left: Cecilia Marques, Kaio DaSilva and Raphaela DaSilva at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.

While the pandemic caused the 2020 graduation to be held virtually, those graduates were invited back to campus to participate in this year’s commencement ceremonies. But DaSilva, in the midst of his first season as a pro, can’t make his designated time slot at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. So he is honored to have his mother and role model represent him.

“I actually have a home game scheduled for the day after my graduation,” DaSilva said. “But it is fitting that my mother will have this opportunity. I would have never been able to attend a university or been blessed the way I have without her.”

“It’s with great love, pride and gratitude to God that I will represent with honor my beloved son at his graduation,” said Cecilia Marques, Kaio’s mother. “We come from a very big family and Kaio is the only one to reach this point. I want to thank the University at Albany for giving my son this opportunity. My lovely daughter will soon follow in his footsteps and I am beyond proud of their accomplishments.”

Along with achieving his soccer dreams, DaSilva views graduating college as a “huge accomplishment” for him and his family. He has two siblings, including a younger sister, Raphaela, a junior at Central Connecticut State University.

“Being a first-generation college student was tough, honestly. I had to grow up fast and learn to figure out a lot of things on my own, such as dealing with financial aid and learning how to be a successful student. My motivation never diminished though, because I knew what it would mean to my family,” DaSilva said, adding he hopes what he has accomplished “can trickle down for years to come to inspire the next generation of my family and others.”