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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Win-win: D.C. United hosts fundraiser and clinic for SCORES



Written by Tony Francavilla
Major Gifts Officer

Our partnership with D.C. United is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Last Thursday, a group of DC SCORES poet-athletes, along with 25 other 7-12 year-old D.C. United fans were treated to a special evening soccer clinic with United Academy players and coaches, and the event's stars, United players Lamar Neagle and Kofi Opare.

Clinic attendees went through a series of footwork and agility drills with coaches, followed by small-sided scrimmages with Neagle and Opare. After the soccer came autographs and pizza, and every kid walked away with tickets to the D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union game the following weekend. The event also raised about $2,500 for DC SCORES, and the poet-athletes were able to attend free of charge thanks to a generous sponsorship from our longtime partner Clark Construction.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening and another opportunity to boast about the best community partnership in Major League Soccer.

Be sure to follow both DC SCORES and D.C. United on social media to catch future clinics and special opportunities to support soccer in the District!


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

DC SCORES alumni cherish giving back as camp counselors


Written by Kelsi Moran
Communications Intern

There are many reasons why kids love going to summer camp; it’s fun, your friends are there, you get to participate in activities you love. But what about the people that make the magic happen? The DC SCORES camp counselors play a large role in the camper experience and they become role models for many kids.

This was evident every day at Truesdell’s five-week soccer & arts camp that wrapped up last week, with several DC SCORES alumni now in high school and college mentoring the youth through DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

“I think one of the best parts of camp for me is building friendships with the campers, and being able to talk to them when they need advice,” said Oscar Argueta, 18, an SYEP counselor and DC SCORES alumnus.

Through SYEP, adolescents and adults ages 14-24 are placed in various productive work environments, including DC SCORES, with the intention of providing youth with work experience and keeping them busy. During the long summer months, students are more prone to boredom and are more at risk of unhealthy decision making and learning loss. SYEP successfully combats this, especially for SCORES alumni actively engaged every day at camp.



“I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so working for DC SCORES helps me to get involved with extracurricular activities rather than activities outside of school that could be bad,” said DC SCORES alumnae Ingrid Melendez, 18.

Melendez, like many of the counselors, has done it for multiple years. She’s now a rising sophomore at Trinity Washington University, and has been an SYEP worker for DC SCORES since she started high school. Her love for the kids and desire to stay busy during the summer is what motivates her to continue coming back.

“The first year I was a counselor I said it would be the only summer I do it, but the kids asked me if I was gonna do it next summer and I just couldn't not come back for them,” Melendez said.

When campers are asked to talk about their favorite counselor, their eyes light up and they enthusiastically explain why. The relationship between a counselor and a camper is monumental not only for their enjoyment level while at camp, but also in their lives. I watched first-hand throughout the five weeks as the children gained meaningful friendships with people they look up to and who care for their well-being in and outside of camp.

Alumni like Oscar and Ingrid worked hard every day, energetically engaging with the campers even on the hottest of hot and humid afternoons.

“I love working with kids,” Ingrid said. “I just love when they smile and their faces light up from the smallest things. They are always excited for what’s next.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cresa Washington DC strengthens team through DC SCORES partnership



Written by Kelsi Moran
Communications Intern

As the campers filed into Truesdell Education Campus for camp, Cresa Washington DC employees were busy at work grilling and setting up for the annual Summer BBQ. Plates were cleaned, stomachs were filled, soccer games were played, and Cresa employees had the opportunity to interact with the kids of the program they fundraise for.

The DC SCORES and Cresa partnership began in 2010 when Senior Vice President Chris Finley recognized the lack of a formal community outreach program within the company. Finley believed it was time Cresa (then named Cresa Partners) make an organized effort to give back. He was made chair of the community outreach program and kick-started the search for a partner organization.

In a survey employees were asked to take, Finley found that Cresa employees were interested in the veterans community and underprivileged youth. They were then asked to rank a collection of organizations that target those areas, including DC SCORES.

DC SCORES was not unknown to Finley, who always had a love and respect for the impact it has on youth. Finley lobbied for DC SCORES, and the final decision was made by Cresa employees.

“I was fortunate and proud that DC SCORES was the most popular selection” he said. “There’s no doubt that this is the best organization that has high impact.”

Since the birth of the partnership, Cresa has organized numerous events, connected with sponsors, played in the DC SCORES Cup corporate tournament, and arranged fundraisers. Cresa partially funds DC SCORES summer programming through the annual Couch to Camp campaign -- with employees engaging in successful peer-to-peer outreach.

For Finley, events like the BBQ are encouraged among employees as a way to actually engage with the organization they fundraise for. On Thursday despite another hot and humid afternoon, Cresa employees not only served up a huge lunch for campers but also jumped in the soccer scrimmages – laughing and goofing off with the kids.

“I wanted to create a new method of fundraising to get people to emotionally connect with the cause,” Finley said. “You want people to be emotionally tied.”

As the day came to a close, the mutual benefits of the partnership were clear

“This allows us to strengthen our relationships for a common cause,” Finley said. “We are in a very competitive business and you can lose sight of what’s happening in the communities around you.

“The single greatest thing DC SCORES has done for Cresa is strengthening our team.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alumni profile: Edwin blossoms into leader under coach Popsie Lewis



Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

Edwin OrdoƱez's story, by now, is known by many. A front page Washington Post article April 11 documented Edwin’s incredible journey.

From an El Salvadorian village where he lived with his grandparents and worked on a farm. To Guatemala, then Mexico, then walking across a desert and swimming across the Rio Grande River with his dad to enter the United States -- at age 9.

From not knowing a lick of English upon entering Washington, DC’s H.D. Cooke Elementary School as a fourth-grader. To graduating valedictorian of his high school, Bell Multicultural, after taking 12 AP classes and six college courses.

To, finally, Princeton University, to which Edwin, a first-generation college student, is receiving basically a full scholarship.

On a mid-July day, Edwin is already at Princeton, taking two courses that take up six hours each day as part of freshman orientation.

“At this point, I’m really excited about all the opportunities that this school has to offer,” Edwin says by phone. “I feel like I will accomplish a lot and I will grow not just as a student but as a leader, and become someone who can really contribute to my community and to the world as a whole.”

That Edwin will lead, that Edwin will achieve -- he can just let his work speak for itself. But how did Edwin become someone all his peers look up to and admire? And how did soccer, the game he grew up loving in El Salvador, fit in?

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Fourth grade for Edwin at H.D. Cooke was about getting his bearings in a new land. He knew, however, that he wanted to play on the soccer team. He saw the aqua jerseys with the school name on the back his peers wore every Thursday for game day. He made that a reality in fifth grade, making many friends in DC SCORES. The poetry aspect assisted him as he continued to learn the English language.

“I feel like I received a lot of help from them,” Edwin says of his two poetry coaches at the time.

Edwin’s next stop was Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. Because of great interest, the boys soccer team was split into a sixth and seventh grade team and an eighth grade squad, which was coached by Popsie Lewis. Edwin enjoyed his first year and a half at Lincoln, but it wasn’t until Popsie took over the seventh graders during the spring of Edwin’s second year that he blossomed.

Edwin with his MVP plaque after one of Lincoln's
Capital Cup middle school championships. 
Popsie didn’t waste time in making Edwin his captain and teaching him at every opportunity what makes a great leader. Edwin embraced each lesson. From early on, a bond was formed that would shape Edwin’s path all the way through high school.


“At that point, I felt like I was more than a player when I was on the field,” Edwin says now. “I was like another coach.”

Whenever his teammates got out of line or “a little bit carried away,” Edwin made sure to speak up and restore order. “That was when I really realized what it meant to be a captain,” he says.

Popsie, now a DC SCORES coach of nine years and the recent recipient of D.C. United’s MLS Community MVP, preaches respect more than any other value with his kids at Thomson Elementary and Lincoln, and with his alumni team. He didn’t need to say a word to Edwin.

“That kid had it down pat from Day 1,” Popsie says.



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Popsie describes Edwin as a “kid that naturally led,” but as Edwin tells it, leadership only came easily on the soccer field. It took him growing in that role and learning from his coach to become comfortable leading in other capacities in and around school.

“I was always really uncomfortable with taking leadership positions outside of the field,” Edwin says. “But getting that practice on the field really gave me confidence to take on leadership positions outside the field as well, and I feel like that really reflected in the way I started high school and the way I carried myself through high school.”

By the time Edwin reached 11th grade, he had four years of soccer captainship under his belt. Not only had he played at Lincoln, but he was one of the original members of Popsie and Simon Landau’s first DC SCORES alumni team that competed in DC Stoddert leagues year-round. Edwin was the no-brainer captain choice.

Edwin (center) with coach Popsie (left), coach Simon (right) and teammates at an indoor alumni tournament. 
Popsie recalls a handful of occasions when both he and Simon were unable to attend the weekly Saturday game. That presented all sorts of challenges for the group of teenagers, chief among them making sure everyone knew where the game was -- locations varied throughout DC -- and how to get there.

“Edwin was always the one kid that I could call and say, ‘Hey, man, call the kids, get them together, make it to the game, coach the game,’” Popsie says.

“A kid at 16, 17 years old taking that responsibility to not only do what I ask but more importantly having a group of kids under his supervision and always doing the right thing and always putting them in the right situations -- meaning nobody ever got in trouble, nobody ever wandered off from him -- I think that itself spoke volumes about Edwin.

“Because to have those younger kids kind of look up to him -- not only look up to him but obviously have a lot of respect for him -- that’s the only way that was able to work.”

Edwin didn’t play high school soccer. He wanted to, but he didn’t take the chance. The interest at Bell far exceeds the number of spots available. There's only a varsity team. So he just played on Popsie and Simon’s team. And as his workload at school got bigger and bigger, his time away from all of it meant that much more.

Edwin (2nd from right) also found time to become a certified volunteer referee for DC SCORES game days. 

“Soccer has always been a way to relax myself,” Edwin says, “a way to forget about the schoolwork for a little bit. During my time at Bell, I felt like that was something I really needed a lot of the time.”

In that 11th grade year, generally considered the hardest of high school, Edwin, in his own words, fully embraced leadership in all aspects of his life. He became the Vice President of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) club at school, a position that meant representing hundreds of students from all across the District who are interested in business.

Edwin thrived in the position and his stature in Bell’s hallways continued to grow, too, with more and more students looking up to him. If being named valedictorian was a campaign, this was the beginning of Edwin’s political journey.

“It was a bigger position, a bigger responsibility, and I felt like it was because of the way that I felt after all those years of practice on the field,” Edwin says now of his decision to take on the VP role.

Just this past June, he delivered the valedictorian speech to his fellow graduates.

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When Edwin thinks back on the impact of DC SCORES, he calls it “literally … a second family for me.”

Edwin was relatively calm when he found out about his acceptance to Princeton -- one of 25 schools, six in the Ivy League, he applied to -- but his coaches weren’t. Simon called Edwin 10 seconds after hearing the news.

“They were really happy,” Edwin says. “They were even more happy and excited than I was.

“Popsie has been more than a coach, more than a friend, and I’m really, really happy with the bond that we’ve created -- not only with him, but also with Simon and with my teammates as well.

“I feel like those are people I always can count on.”

Many of Edwin’s toughest obstacles are behind him. Crossing the entirety of Mexico. Learning a new language. Making friends. Getting the full scholarship despite not being eligible for federal loans or grants because of his immigration status.

And one thing is certain: As Edwin embarks on this next journey, studying computer engineering and hoping to play club soccer, Princeton University has a seasoned freshman leader on campus.

“He had so many things stacked up against him,” Popsie says. “But never once did he lose track of what his ultimate goal was.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer campers learn how to build and spy with Clark Construction



Written by Kelsi Moran
Communications Intern

An air of curiosity filled the room as eyes lit up in wonder and excited chatter echoed, each camper soaking up every word of the Spy Museum presentation. Whether creating or listening, campers’ imaginations ran wild as they learned more about spies and what they may find in the still-being-constructed Spy Museum by L'Enfant Plaza.

This past Friday's exclusive presentation at the new building was made possible by DC SCORES longtime partner Clark Construction, which had several employees on hand to lead the students through an action-packed afternoon.

It began with campers expressing themselves and using their imaginations to build their own Spy Museums out of construction paper, paper plates, and numerous other crafting materials. Each group put their creative skills to use to bring to life their visions.



Once the museums were created, the campers got a chance to experience virtual reality headsets. These goggles gave the wearer an idea of what the future Spy Museum will look.

“The goggles were awesome!” said Frank M., 8, a summer camp participant. “I could see large windows and a huge staircase!”

Spy Museum Youth Education Director Jacqueline Eyl presented about different items that spies may use and their purposes. Using things such as a soda can and shaving cream as props, Eyl gave campers a glimpse into the secret world of spies.

“The Spy Museum has the largest collection of spy gadgets in the world," Eyl said.

The campers marveled at the information Eyl shared with them, and hands shot up in the air to ask questions.

Finally, an afternoon well spent inside the soon-to-be museum complete, students and Clark employees spilled outside to play game of soccer to complete a perfectly constructed day in partnership.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Alumni profile: With DC SCORES' support, doors open for Ana Galeas



Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

When Ana Galeas joined DC SCORES as a third-grader at Raymond Education Campus in 2006, there was one reason.

Soccer.

Now, 10 years later, here is Ana, 18, speaking for six consecutive minutes about the program in front of 150 people at a Brookings Institute event in her hometown of Washington, DC. Ana sits alongside the likes of former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.

She only mentions soccer a couple times during the testimonial to the program she’s been involved in for a decade.

“DC SCORES has helped me a lot starting with helping me be a better leader, helping me to be a mentor to little kids and reminding myself that I was one of those little kids,” Ana says.

“When you see them smile you just remind yourself that it’s something that you’re helping them in.”

Ana is poised, comfortable and confident. She laughs along with the other panelists when talking about kids using disposable cameras -- they still exist! -- at camp. She describes how important it is for kids her age to serve as mentors for younger youth. She uses nonverbals -- learned during her DC SCORES poetry performance sessions -- to communicate her points, and nods in agreement with things the others say. She barely mentions soccer.

Even if one didn’t know Ana before July 14, 2016, it’d be clear after hearing her speak that she’s a well-rounded, confident young woman ready to take the next step.

This fall, Ana will attend Montgomery College. But first, she has a couple weeks left of leading kids at DC SCORES summer camp. This is her fourth year as a Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) counselor for SCORES.

From left: Rising sophomore at Trinity University, Ingrid Melendez, alumnae soccer coach Asa Davis, and Ana.

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Ana grew up in DC with soccer. Her father, originally from El Salvador, was the president of a local soccer team that played matches every weekend. Ana would tag along with her older sister to games, watching intently from the sidelines.

Because of academics, Ana’s mother held her back for a year in third grade. Her second time through, Ana joined DC SCORES because she wanted to play soccer. Her grades improved, and she loved the feeling of being on a team.

In fifth grade, Ana moved from defender to goalie and wasn’t good at first -- “I remember my first time playing goalie, they made like 20 goals. I was so bad,” Ana says now laughing -- but stuck with it and enjoyed playing the position. But then the year was over, and Raymond at the time did not have middle school programming. All of a sudden, Ana was without the team and opportunity to continue playing and improving her skills.

Sixth and seventh grade were rough for Galeas socially.

“Those were two years when I really fell off,” she says. “I just went to school and came back home. I didn’t do nothing.”

Galeas transferred to Lincoln Middle School in eighth grade, in part so she could participate in DC SCORES again. She missed the sport, the camaraderie. She didn’t play goalie at Lincoln, instead taking on her third position, forward, and she bonded with her new teammates.

Additionally, that year was when for the first time in her life, her parents were able to attend a game of hers. Galeas’ mother had never been fond of her playing soccer, as it’s never been a cultural norm for Latinas. That game day helped change her perception.

“They were like, ‘You could have done better,’” Ana says with a chuckle of what her parents told her afterward, referring to a play when she fell down, “but then at the same time they were like, ‘I’m really proud of you that you did something.’”

That could have been the end, and a nice one at that, of Ana’s DC SCORES story. But really, it was just the beginning.

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During her lone year at Lincoln, Ana met Popsie Lewis -- a fixture in the school community and the longtime boys soccer coach. When Ana moved to the other side of the Columbia Heights Education Campus building to attend Bell Multicultural High School, she kept in touch with Popsie and frequently saw the girls still on the Lincoln team.

In ninth grade, Ana learned that the team needed an assistant coach. She jumped at the opportunity. She also began refereeing elementary school games on Thursday afternoons at nearby Tubman. Not only was she satisfying her service hours requirement, an essential obligation as she began to look toward college; Ana was also imparting her knowledge from several years of SCORES on a group of girls that could be hard-headed but listened to their peer.

Ana (second from left) with other DC SCORES alumni who became certified referees. 
Ana told the girls about the importance of getting service hours in high school. She made sure they attended poetry sessions, a requirement for them to play in games. She celebrated with them after winning the Capital Cup middle school championship.

With each year of coaching, Ana’s confidence rose along with others’ trust in her. She was becoming a leader, both on and off the field. Even as Ana took up rugby in 10th grade and began traveling every weekend for games, she continued to coach Lincoln and even helped lead poetry sessions in 11th grade.

“I feel like it was important to me to be with them,” Ana says now.

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DC SCORES was there for Ana beyond Lincoln’s soccer field and classroom, too. During 11th grade, she was nominated VP of the Alumni Leadership Board. With peers from throughout DC, she planned and ran events such as the highly successful annual soccer tournament. She served as a conduit for other former poet-athletes to stay engaged with the program.

With each visit to the DC SCORES office, Galeas’ world opened up more and more. Staff helped sign her up for Youth Leadership Greater Washington in 2014, a 6-month development and community and education program through which Ana met others from DC, Maryland and Virginia. In May 2015, she spoke on a President’s Council on Fitness panel about her DC SCORES experience.

If Ana didn’t visit DC SCORES for a couple weeks, Greta Poku-Adjei, Ana’s closest confidante, asked why. When it came time to apply for colleges, they worked together to knock out the applications and apply for all the right scholarships that could make her dream a reality.

Assistant coach Ana (in the back with the hat) and the Lincoln girls team that won the Capital Cup title.
Ana’s family history didn’t portend college: Neither of her parents and just one of her four older siblings, a sister who’s currently enrolled at Montgomery, took their education that far. Even her sister struggled because of a lack of support with all the hoops one unfamiliar with the process must jump through.

“She didn’t have that much help with college,” Ana says. “So that, too -- DC SCORES came into that. They helped me a lot in (applying for) college.”

Galeas didn’t apply to her dream school, the University of Maryland, because she was scared of rejection. Now, she realizes that was a mistake but also sees a road that will lead her there -- a pathway program that would involve two years at Montgomery followed by a transition to College Park.

“It feels nice, it feels awesome,” Ana says, anticipating the beginning of her next life phase.

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But she’s not there yet. Ana has unfinished business at summer camp. With each day, she imparts knowledge on the third- fourth- and fifth-graders from her 10 years of involvement with DC SCORES. She lets them know that yes, soccer is great, but there’s also so much more they can do. There are multiple paths toward being successful and happy.

“I told them, ‘You guys can focus on two things,’” Ana says. “There’s always more than one thing you can do. I told that to some of the girls. If you have the ability to do more than one thing, you will never feel empty.”

Ana beams with pride when mentioning that girls she’s mentored are now exploring playing other sports. They also talk about being doctors. And then mention another possible career path. Their minds are open, overflowing with possibilities.

And that’s what she’s learned from her first game in a Raymond uniform all the way to sitting in front of hundreds of people alongside the former mayor of Philadelphia: With a strong support network, so much is possible. Horizons are expanded.

Dreams, whether old or new, are realized.

“Continue to not stop and to never look back,” Ana tells her summer campers. “The more things you’ll do, the more you’ll be happy about yourself.”