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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teams show tremendous growth at DC SCORES Capital Cup

As the final whistle blew, a large throng of fans stormed the field at Bell Multicultural High School.

A year and a half ago, Raymond Education Campus didn't even have a middle school soccer program. Now, on a fair-weather late November Tuesday, the community celebrated winning the girls Capital Cup Championship.

"It's super exciting," said volunteer coach Ariel Berroa after Raymond's 1-0 victory over Cardozo Education Campus. "It's a really nice achievement for the kids and me, too. Yeah, I feel really good."

Raymond's win demonstrated how quickly kids, when given a team and strong support structure, can thrive as one.

The same can be said of the Lincoln Middle School boys team, an annual fixture in the Capital Cup. After many of his leaders graduated last spring, coach Popsie Lewis wasn't sure what to expect from the team of mostly sixth- and seventh-graders that came to the first September practice.

"I only had two returning players and within the first week I lost one of them," Lewis said. "I definitely was searching for leaders. In the beginning of the season, that was the hardest part for these kids."

September and October practices weren't easy — and the team absorbed plenty of lumps — but gradually leaders emerged, kids Lewis knew he could lean on to set a positive example for teammates.

Dylan, Anthony, and Isaac — who, Lewis said, scored 15 of Lincoln's 16 regular-season goals — stepped up and filled the leadership void. And on Tuesday night, Lewis had nothing to worry about as the Knights played tremendous team soccer en route to a 6-2 victory over Cesar Chavez Prep in a rematch of last year's Capital Cup.

"Those guys really stepped up and took the challenge that I gave them becoming leaders," Lewis said. "I was looking for leaders, not so much followers. Those kids stepping up and doing that for me, it made a huge difference."

The reason DC SCORES added a middle school program at Raymond was demand. So many kids who were in the program during elementary school would become too old for the team and be left without a team. On Tuesday, the Raymond girls demonstrated how the Tigers have taken advantage of the opportunity to be on a team — from third through eighth grade.

Berroa said the Capital Cup wasn't so much a goal of the team as it was a result of the girls gaining confidence throughout DC SCORES' fall season. When the Tigers came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to tie Chavez Prep and win on penalty kicks, Berroa and his fellow coaches knew what they were capable of.

"That gave them the confidence to reach here and win the Cup."

And as evidenced by the large mass of people rushing the field, the Raymond community has embraced its DC SCORES teams and loves celebrating the Tigers' successes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part VII: Taking the stage

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week, Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr.


Written by Paris Volpe 
Digital Media Intern

The decibel level in the cafeteria is getting out of control.

The Panthers are on stage ready for round two of rehearsal but it’s so loud, it’s hard to think. Coach Rosenberg looks at the groups of other students playing and eating in the cafeteria and shrugs. She can’t move her class anywhere else because this is where the stage and microphone is.

So the show goes on.

“Alright guys, let’s be so good this time maybe the other kids will want to listen,” Rosenberg says. “I’ll time this round too.”

When the Panthers perform on stage for the Poetry Slam! Dec. 3., they will have 5 minutes for three poems and cannot use their poem sheets. This is their trial run.

The students hurry back to their positions. Troy R., age 10, takes the front of the stage and introduces his class.

“The title of our first poem is, I am; I wish.’”

His class shouts from behind him, “I AM!”

Troy’s smile widens as he continues. “I am happy with my life because it’s awesome, not boring,” he says proudly.

Individual students take turns speaking their lines into the microphone. As the poem continues, the noisy cafeteria slowly comes down to a simmer. I turn around to see the other kids now gazing at the stage. Conversations do not completely stop but they pause to take notice of the performance.

The students finish off their last poem with a resounding Panther “RAWR!” Another teacher from the back of the cafeteria shouts, “Great job, guys!” The Panthers are surprised but yell back, “Thank you!” and start to high-five.

Rosenberg then continues to help the students work on their posture and projection.

“If you need to fidget, try putting your hands behind your back,” she says. “Your classmates will be the only ones who can see, and they don’t care if you need to wiggle a bit. They are behind you to support you.”

It’s this kind of constructive criticism that helps the students improve their speech and stage confidence.

The students go for round three of rehearsal and the progress is already noticeable. Only a few more sessions before the big day. But Brightwood isn’t running out of steam.

They’re just getting started.


Related posts
Power of Poetry, Part I
Power of Poetry, Part II
Power of Poetry, Part III
Power of Poetry, Part IV
Power of Poetry, Part V
Power of Poetry, Part VI

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part VI: Acting out the performance

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week, Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr.


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

“You know what I would really like to see our class do to represent teamwork?” Coach Rosenberg asks her class. Right as Rosenberg is about to continue, Betelihem G., age 10, stands up and gives her a high-five.

The class bursts into laughter.

Shocked, Rosenberg says, “Wow. Wait. I like that idea way better.”

Now everyone starts to high-five.

There is no shortage of ideas in this classroom. For the entirety of this session on a cold mid-November afternoon, the Panthers share their thoughts on what actions and expressions they should perform during their group poem at the Dec. 3 Poetry Slam!.

Rosenberg patiently goes through each line of the poem with her class, asking for performance recommendations for key words. She keeps the energy flow of the classroom continuous and positive. As individual suggestions come in, she helps the kids develop their thoughts into specific actions the class can perform together.

“How can we demonstrate being helpful?” Rosenberg asks.

“Help someone carry their books!” shouts Trey O, age 10.

“Give them money!” suggests Ammanuel A., age 10.

“Catch them if they fall!” shouts another student.

Eventually the class agrees to act out helping someone who has dropped their wallet. Two volunteers practice this a few times with the supportive direction of their classmates. Even though there are a few mistakes along the way, the giggles never stop.

Finally, when all the actions are listed on the board, the class practices together. I didn’t think these students could get anymore enthusiastic. But boy was I wrong.

All of a sudden, the class is jumping, dancing, playing air-guitar, high-fiving, stomping. Even Sammy M., age 10, who is typically very quiet, is having a blast with Troy R., age 10, coming up with dance moves.

Eventually, everyone settles and we all try to catch our breath from laughing so much. Then Rosenberg asks Betelihem, who will be performing the individual poem, when she would like to give her poem. Betelihem stutters a bit. Rosenberg notices her hesitance.

“You can go after the first group poem,” she says. “If you feel nervous, you can always wait on the side and come out after us. But you will have your class behind you the entire time. You’re not going to be alone.”

Betelihem relaxes a bit and nods.

This session made it evident how far this DC SCORES team has come. Not only have I seen their writing improve, but their confidence, too.

They might have moments of hesitancy, but when they stand together there isn’t anything they can’t do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DC SCORES coach's journal, Part IV: Poetry Slam! prep and the BIG GAME!

Zachary Gomes moved to Washington, DC, two months ago from Albany, NY, to begin working at DC SCORES as a Coach Across America AmeriCorps volunteer. Zach has a passion for working with youth, and as part of his work with DC SCORES is coaching poetry and girls soccer at Lincoln Middle School. Throughout the season, Zach will share his experience as one of DC SCORES’ 190 coaches who run the program at our 47 schools. Zach will provide insight on the impact of DC SCORES -- through the eyes of a coach.


Written by Zachary Gomes
Soccer Coordinator

“Burgundy and White in the wind 
Our cry is bold 
We have a team that everyone knows 
Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”

As the Poetry Slam! approaches, the kids have buckled down and begun preparing for the upcoming performance. Unlike soccer, there isn’t a next week. The Slam! happens once a year, and I think they are starting to get serious about making a big impression on Dec. 3 when they’ll take the stage of their own school.

A large portion of the kids are bilingual, fluent in both Spanish and English. I encouraged the class to express themselves in Spanish. It was interesting watching them disagree on which Spanish words to use, as the difference between Spanish from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras can often be quite different.

By the end of the class, I was smiling like a proud parent. The kids had blown me away with their creativity and use of words. They had created a masterpiece.

To hear them, almost 40 strong, say things like, “Together we are strong!” brought me chills.

And the thing is, when you start saying these types of things together, you begin to understand they are true! You begin to better understand the strength of the community you are in. That is the power of DC SCORES’ poetry and spoken word program.


The energy from poetry spilled over into our soccer practices. The girls were more focused at practice and it was clear the team was getting closer as a unit.

In the beginning of the season, the girls would take a lap, stretch and do a small dynamic warm-up. However, there was no togetherness. Now, they form two lines and perform a warm-up routine that is as organized as that of the U.S. National Teams.

A lot of this change can be credited to the help I am getting from Ana G. Ana is a DC SCORES alumna who graduated from Lincoln and is now in the 11th grade at neighboring Bell High School. She is a natural-born coach and leader.

Ana doesn’t let the girls give up. She is never without a positive comment and she keeps the girls pumped up throughout practice. She helped the girls learn a new pre-game routine, and watching her do it was great. She kept asking them questions like, “Why do we want to look organized?” “What kind of team are we?” “Why can’t WE be the best?” She kept the girls focused and through her questioning helped them to understand why it was important that they learned the new routine as a group.

Ana tells me that a lot of her coaching style is modeled after last year’s Lincoln coach, Charity. Ana not only inspires the team; she inspires me. She is a game-changer.


Our last game was a big one against Chavez Prep. With the two schools separated by a handful of neighborhood blocks, it was a home game for everybody. I had heard about the rivalry before, but didn’t know what I was in for.

The focus on the girls’ faces. They’re eagerness to play. The discipline of the warm-ups. Counting as they stretched, “UNO! DOS! TRES!.” Yelling as loud as they could so that all of Columbia Heights knew they were ready to play…

This was a big game! This was what it’s like to be on a team and feel the thrill of being part of a unit that is working together to achieve a common goal. The support of your teammates; the excitement of game day — it’s fun.

The intensity of the warm-ups matched the pace of the game. In the 10th minute, Chavez Prep snuck a goal past our keeper and took the lead. There was a lot of game left and I knew that this goal could go one of two ways:

1. The girls would get frustrated. 2. The girls would play even harder.

The girls played even harder and I couldn’t have been more proud.

We never got the equalizer we were searching for, but we played our best game of the season. The girls’ passes were on point. The defense held strong like a cement wall. And our keeper Tirsa S., a sixth-grader (the equivalent of a college freshman), played fearlessly! She made a diving save in the second half that had even her opponents clapping for her.

It was a tough loss. Tears were shed and some of the girls were frustrated. But the season continues. And in the end, the girls were smiling and happy, knowing they had put their best foot forward and left it all on the field.

“Burgundy and White in the wind
Our cry is bold
We have a team that everyone knows
Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”


Related posts

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part V: Writing the group poem

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week, Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr.


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

“I am respectful, responsible and ________.” This is the first line I notice on the sheet of poems Coach Rosenberg passes out to her class on Friday afternoon.

Hikma H., age 8, notices the blank too and tells Rosenberg this is a line from her poem and she knows the missing word. “Resilient,” she says quietly. “Do you know what that word means?” asks Rosenberg. “Yes,” replies Hikma. “It means someone who doesn’t give up even when things are hard.”

Rosenberg smiles and instructs the rest of the class to fill in the blank.

No matter what the poems are about, each one reveals a little bit about the student poet who wrote it.

As instructed, the students begin circling the poem lines they like the best. However, this is no simple task. There is much chatter and debate about which lines to choose. Eventually, the class reaches an agreement on an eight-verse poem—a poem that effectively represents this family of Brightwood Panthers.

Later, I ask Troy R., age 8, if he likes this class. He gives a very enthusiastic nod. “I like my class because we are talented … even though sometimes we’re goofy,” Troy says, giggling. While I meant “class” as in the poetry session, I accept that Troy made an even better statement about enjoying the students he is surrounded by.

When I ask how he thinks his class will do in the Poetry Slam!, he responds, “I think we will be good because we can be serious too and work together.”

Troy then adds, “I’m a little nervous though.” When I ask why, he responds, “We pause when we read sometimes. … But do you want to know what I’m going to do if I get scared?”

Of course, I want to know.

“I’m going to picture the audience with no pants on,” Troy says, laughing through his statement.

There is no doubt Troy is going to perform swimmingly at the Poetry Slam!.

Troy isn’t the only one who has a bit of the jitters, though, less than a month before the big day. Alexis T., age 10, tells me he is worried about the performance as well.

“We have to speak in front of a lot of other kids,” he says. Then Fitsum M., age 10, chimes in. “I am only nervous because I have no idea who is going to win!” he says, exasperated.

“But we picked out really good lines today,” Alexis says reassuringly. Fitsum nods in agreement.

It’s easy to tell there is much excitement for the Poetry Slam! Dec. 3. And now it’s crunch time! With their group poem almost finalized, the anticipation is propelling the Brightwood Panthers through the rest of their sessions.


Related posts 
The Power of Poetry, Part I
The Power of Poetry, Part II
The Power of Poetry, Part III
The Power of Poetry, Part IV

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part IV: Poetry Slam! poems in progress

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week, Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr.


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

“‘Being in soccer makes me proud.’ How can we make this sentence better?” asks Coach Rosenberg. “Add in DC SCORES!” shouts Marinella R. from the back of the classroom.

Funny, I was thinking the same thing.

“How else can we edit this sentence?” asks Coach Rosenberg. Students take turns making revisions to the example sentence. The final version is, “Playing in DC SCORES soccer games makes me proud!” Emphasis on “proud.”

“This is what I want you to work on today,” Rosenberg says. “Think about what you can add to your sentences to bring them to life. What adjectives can you throw in there? Can you switch out certain words?”

The purpose of this lesson is to have the students pick a favorite poem of theirs and clean it up for the Poetry Slam! Dec. 3. The coaches work with students individually to help with the editing process.

The students learn that good works of poetry take time and many revisions. They also learn the importance of getting ready early for their performance.

The key to feeling comfortable for the Poetry Slam! is advanced preparation and knowing exactly what to say on stage. Eventually, once every student has perfected their poem, the class will combine their favorite lines for a group poem.

As I walk around the room, I ask the students which poem they want to work on for the Poetry Slam!. “I have no idea. I have so many!” says Ashley A., age 8. “Wow. You must write all the time!” I reply.

“I guess!” Ashley says, surprised at herself. “My mom bought me four new notebooks last week. One for my fashion design, one for my skate designs, one for my secrets, and one to write down everything she tells me that I should remember when I’m older.

Clearly, Ashley has no shortage of writing samples.

I move to another table and ask if anyone has a poem line polished enough, ready to share. To my surprise, hands shoot up immediately: Three willing participants right off the bat. One at a time, I help the kids pick their favorite line to read.

First up is Nancy R., age 10. “Paris…can you read mine and tell me what you think?” she asks. Nancy tends to be very quiet, but I can tell she is excited to read her poem; she just needs to make sure it’s safe to read it out loud. Delighted, I read her, “I AM” poem. “Nancy, this is great. I don’t know how we are going to pick just one line!” I tell her.

It takes Nancy a few tries to perfect reading the selected sentence without her notebook. Though she is shy, she is resilient. Nancy takes her time until she nails it and then signs off with an accomplished smile.

I walk back into the classroom only to find that word has spread I am taking volunteer readers. I suddenly have a long line of eager poets ready for their close-up.

“Can I read my whole poem?!” ask Keily, L., age 10, my next volunteer. My favorite thing about Keily is that she is always charged with zeal and energy. So when I explain that we only have time for one line, she looks disappointed. “How about we take one line and make it really animated? Get sassy with it,” I tell her. She loves this idea.

The first eight tries, Keily can’t make it through the line without laughing. But that’s what is so great about these students. Introverted like Nancy, or extroverted like Keily, they all genuinely enjoy writing and reading their poems.

After I wrap up my interviews, one student is getting ready to share her finished poem with the class. Betelihem G., age 10, takes the floor and Rosenberg even holds up the coveted classroom microphone — a paper towel roll.

After the performance, there are claps all around for Betelihem’s impressive gumption and courage. Damien A., age 8, is the first to raise his hand with an inquiry for Betelihem. “How did you write that so fast?” he asks, astonished.

Coach Nelson explains to the class that Betelihem has been working on this poem for a few weeks now.

“This poem didn’t take 20 minutes,” Nelson says. “It’s taken much more time and effort than that. It’s really quite impressive what Betelihem has done here. She has been taking time outside of poetry sessions to polish this poem. She has come to me with ideas and questions for a while now. Class, you have to understand that if you want your poem to be powerful, it takes time.”

There is a pause. The class lets the inspiration of Betelihem’s hard work and Nelson’s wisdom settle in. There’s just one month until the Poetry Slam!, and Brightwood’s journey to the main stage has only just begun.


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