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Monday, June 27, 2016

14th Annual DC SCORES Cup raises $140,000 for DC kids

Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

During a rare break from the soccer Saturday, 32 teams of adults sporting different-colored T-shirts came together for a photograph. Perhaps only then, as everyone congregated in between fields 5 and 6 for a photo, could one realize just how BIG the 14th Annual DC SCORES Cup was.

The tournament at the Maryland SoccerPlex featured 32 teams and 500 participants. Games were played continuously on eight fields from 9am-2:30pm, followed by the playoffs. And the event concluded with high drama, as District Sports outlasted Zuckerman Spaeder LLP on eight penalty kicks for the competitive division title. Just a few minutes earlier, Enlightenment Capital capped off its first SCORES Cup by winning the casual division.

Most importantly, employees bonded during a long day of soccer together -- with important half-hour breaks for lying in the shade mixed in! -- and also learned more about DC SCORES. When Executive Director Bethany Rubin Henderson announced that the tournament raised a record $140,000 for DC kids, everyone broke out in applause.

Big thanks to all the companies that participated -- including Zuckerman, Marriott and Hogan Lovells US LLP, who have played in all 14 SCORES Cups -- as well as the tournament sponsors: Subway, which donated lunch for all participants; Whole Foods, which provided much-needed snacks for the DrinkMore Water, which continues to support DC SCORES' large events by donating huge jugs of water; and D.C. United, which provided many ticket giveaways leading up to June 25 and tickets for all participants to the August 27 game at RFK Stadium.

Additionally, a big thanks to the Maryland SoccerPlex, which has hosted the Cup for seven years now, and to all the volunteers who helped the day run smoothly from 6am until after 4pm.

Competitive division: Group play; playoffs.
Casual division: Group play; playoffs.

View our Flickr album.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Faces of Summer SCORES, Part I: Bryan stays active at camp

This summer, more than 250 DC kids are participating in DC SCORES’ three free soccer and enrichment camps. Throughout the season, we will highlight particular participants through our Faces of Summer SCORES video and blog series. You can also follow along on Twitter and Instagram via the hashtag #SummerSCORES.


Written by Kelsi Moran
Communications Intern

It’s summer — the pools are open, parks are filled with loungers and live performances, and a great number of students are on vacation. For many, this time of year is accompanied by feelings of excitement and opportunity, while others are burdened with the worries of how one will pass the days.
For Bryan, a student at Thomson Elementary School, freedom from the responsibilities of school is a deep concern. He recognizes that being away from his studies can be detrimental to skills such as math and reading. He asks his mother to assign him math problems to avoid any learning loss. While tackling this issue, he understands that this does not answer the question of what he will do to avoid boredom.

"Summer is so fun, but my teachers always tell me that it’s easy to forget math," Bryan said. "So I asked my mom if we could do practice problems so I don’t forget.”

Boredom is the biggest culprit in unhealthy decision-making, especially during the summer months. As an active student and athlete, long periods of free time is not enjoyable for Bryan.

That’s where DC SCORES’ free summer camps, which began at Kelly Miller last week, come in.
Bryan’s love for SCORES summer camp is a combination of spending time on the field with teammates, and productively fill his free time. Bryan has been with DC SCORES for two years now, and his affinity for camp is apparent in his glowing smile. He thrives in environments that are geared toward being active and learning. His wholehearted engagement in the drills and games leads his coaches to describe him as passionate and hardworking.

“Watching Bryan on the field is truly a joy," said camp coach Bashir. "You can be certain that he will do his best every day and be as excited as he was his first day of camp on the last day."

One word that best describes Bryan is passion. It takes one conversation with him to see this. Whether discussing soccer, school, or NBA basketball, Bryan’s eyes light up and his scope of knowledge and pure interest permits him to talk for hours. Fair warning, this passion is highly contagious and may cause those who experience it to enthusiastically engage in conversations previously ignored.

DC SCORES camps are more than just a place to have fun with friends and dodge boredom; it is an outlet for Bryan, a place to express his passion for soccer and learning to its full extent. Bryan’s goal of making summer 2016 one of memories, learning, and engagement can be a source of inspiration for many.

With SCORES, summer will continue to be a time of excitement and opportunity for Bryan as he spends his days doing what he loves. Students have passions that should be encouraged and developed, but summer can often cause those passions to suffer. Thanks to SCORES supporters, this will not be the story for students like Bryan.

Monday, June 20, 2016

DC SCORES hosts three free summer camps in 2016

Today marks the official beginning of summer, and also the first day of DC SCORES summer camp.

At this moment under sun-soaked skies, nearly 100 DC kids are learning new soccer skills, making friends, exercising, playing games, and having fun at Kelly Miller Middle School.

Get ready for 39 more days like this!

DC SCORES hosts three free soccer and enrichment camps spanning June 20-July 29. The camps involve soccer instruction, games, arts enrichment, team-building, field trips, and much more. This image shows what each camp offers.

The camps are offered free of charge to any DC kids who fit the age ranges. While the Truesdell arts & soccer camp is full, students are still being accepted for the Kelly Miller (ongoing) and Tubman camps. Kids don't need to be full-year SCORES poet-athletes to participate. 

The camps are led by experienced, skilled coaches who have a strong history of leading DC SCORES
teams and understand our values of teamwork, leadership, and commitment. At the conclusion of camp days and weeks, coaches reward outstanding campers with TLC patches and other prizes for demonstrating the values and having a positive impact on their peers.

One of the coolest things about the camps is how they bring together kids from all parts of the city. It's similar to Fall Frenzy or Jamboree! except that kids from east of the Anacostia River and NW neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights really get to know and understand each other over the course of one, two or five weeks.

Friendships are born, communities are bridged.

Summer is a critical time for low-income youth such as those in DC SCORES. Kids in families that lack the resources to send them to traditional summer camps have been proven to suffer learning loss that sets them back once school begins. Additionally, the rate of obesity gains during the summer months increases for idle kids without a safe, supportive place to stay physically active. And keeping kids off the street and in positive environments cuts down on the chances of them being poorly influenced or directed.

Watch the video below to see just a snapshot of the impact our summer camps have on DC kids, and follow the hashtag #SummerSCORES on Twitter and Instagram all the way through July to learn about the kids, their experiences in the program, and much more.

2015 Summer SCORES photos

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

21st Annual Jamboree! puts an exclamation mark on spring DC SCORES season

Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

(View all Jamboree! photos in our Flickr and Storify albums)

The DC SCORES Jamboree! was such a big event Saturday, a team drove four hours to participate.

That's right -- the America SCORES New York team from Hamilton Grange Middle School in Harlem made the drive south to take part in the 21st edition of the culminating event of the spring DC SCORES season.

Unofficially, this marked the first time a team from one of America SCORES' 14 sites visited another city to participate in an event.  And judging from the expressions on the faces of the 50 or so Hamilton students as they played in one soccer game after another, they enjoyed the Jamboree! just as much as the 50 DC teams that congregated on the large grassy expanse at Anacostia Park.


The day started at 5:45am as DC SCORES staff and volunteers began arriving. Why so early? Because 30 soccer goals needed to be set up and nets strung. Because dozens of tents in the booth area needed to be erected, and the supplies for each activity laid out ready for one team after another to visit (with no breaks). Because water stations needed to be placed all across the large area, and carrying or pulling huge jugs is no easy task.

Setup continued for three hours, only concluding as the elementary school City Cup championship games got underway. And as the Burrville and Marie Reed girls and Capital City and Amidon boys played exciting games, the field all around them became a sea of oranges, and whites, sky blues and dark blues, reds and greens, and blacks and grays. All of the other teams spilled across the still-wet surface, wearing their custom DC SCORES T-shirts.

Thomas, Bancroft, Hart, Tubman, Aiton, Seaton, Thomson, Miner, Brightwood, Moten, LaSalle-Backus, Imagine Hope, Orr, Raymond, Anne Beers, KIPP QUEST, H.D. Cooke -- the list goes on.

As the City Cup games concluded, Program Director Sean Hinkle huddled all the elementary schools around DJ RBI's booth, reminded everyone what soccer games are all about -- sportsmanship -- and then proceeded to point to all the teams, eliciting yells of "BARNARD!" and "TRUESDELL!" and "PAYNE!" and "LECKIE!" The list goes on.

A couple hundred yards away, former DC SCORES staff member and emcee extraordinaire for several SCORES poetry slams Charity Blackwell was doing the same kind of call-and-response for middle schools.

And then it was go time, 2,000 kids in different colored shirts dispersing and heading to the first stop of many to begin a long, exhilarating, entertaining, and fulfilling day.


To give you a sense of everything that Jamboree! provided for its participants, here's what one school, Thomas Elementary, did during the five-hour event:

9:25 am -- The Tigers gather around a smattering of large letters on the grass under the shade of a few large trees and play "word relays." Following the prompts of Clark Construction and other volunteers, the kids spell out words and phrases related to their experience in the program.

Meanwhile the other half of the team tests their bean bag-throwing accuracy as they alternate tossing the bags into different circles and triangles 10 feet away from them.

9:50am -- Time to prepare those skills for the games! The Tigers head to their next station where a group of volunteers lead them through dribbling, heading and other soccer essential skills.

10:15am -- Game time! The Tigers in their white uniforms take on Miner in a girls game followed by a boys game. Smiles are everywhere as the kids race up and down the field.

11:05am -- Let's decorate! The Tigers head to the facepainting station, where they give orders -- their jersey number, a heart, stars, etc. -- to the incredibly artistic volunteers.

11:30am -- Looking their best, it's time for Thomas' photo shoot in front of the D.C. United banner. But not before they get autographs from pro soccer player Patrick Nyarko. After their official team photo, they celebrate by testing out their hula hooping skills while moving to DJ RBI's beats.

11:55am -- It's back to the action as the Tigers take on Marie Reed, a school from the Westside of the city that they've never played before. It's a cool feeling getting to meet and play against a team they haven't faced before.

12:45pm -- Finally, lunch! Having played two soccer games, hula hooped, and more, the Tigers devour their healthy sandwiches, fruit and veggies provided by Revolution Foods.

1:10pm -- It's arts & crafts time -- and a chance for the Tigers to digest their food -- with the awesome volunteer squad from Wells Fargo. Aided by the company's volunteers, the kids use popsicle sticks and glue to create a framed photo of the team that was taken during the DC SCORES season. A memento to take with them!

1:35pm -- Final game of the day! The Tigers take on Tubman Elementary, another Westside school from a neighborhood 6.7 miles away from their school. Jamboree! truly brings different parts of DC together.

2:25pm -- Exhausted but still wearing those smiles, the Tigers begin the long walk across the field to their bus. Sure, their day didn't include the Penya Barcelonista soccer shooting station -- test your accuracy! -- or the November Project-led relay race station where the competition was fierce but the giggles of joy frequent all day long. But overall, they had experienced a lot, closing out the spring DC SCORES season with a bang. They got to hang out with D.C. United mascot Talon. They got to check out all of the DC SCORES teams' service-learning poster boards demonstrating the impact each program made in their community. And they got to do everything else we just mentioned.

The same can be said of the other 49 sites that had programming this spring, and those kids from New York who made the trip. The middle schoolers enjoyed a nonstop action-packed soccer tournament that included three divisions -- boys, girls and co-ed -- and 57 games including championships.

The largest Jamboree! in DC SCORES history wouldn't have been possible without the hundreds of volunteers -- many of whom stayed the entire day from setup until the last scraps of trash were picked up from the field after 3pm. A huge thank you to partners D.C. United, FAAR, Wells Fargo, Clark Construction, the Goldman Sachs volunteer group, November Project DC, Penya Barcelonista, the Edmund Burke School volunteers, Revolution Foods, and of course DJ RBI.

View all Jamboree! photos in our Flickr album.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Change a kid's life by giving on Do More 24!

Today is Do More 24, the biggest giving day in the DC area for more than 700 local nonprofits. It's a day to celebrate and support the hundreds of incredibly important causes in the region, and we hope you'll support DC SCORES and help us achieve our goal of $9,000 raised during 24 hours!

This time of year, we're energized because we hear from “alumni” of our program who are graduating high school and going to college. This is a BIG DEAL for them -- many are the first from their families to attend school. One such alumnus is Edwin, whose absolutely incredible journey was on the front page of The Washington Post. UPDATE: Edwin is heading to Princeton. Amazing!

In 21 years, DC SCORES has served over 9,000 DC kids who are now alumni. Kids who have stories like Edwin’s. Hear from a few alumni HERE (or above) about what DC SCORES means to them, and please make more stories possible by providing a team for an at-risk DC child with a gift on Do More 24.

As with each giving day we participate in, we understand the impact of every single donation. To show this, we will track and update the list of donor High Fives below during the 24 hours! We will also give shoutouts on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day!

Soccer jerseys + poetry journals ($28 value) given: 482

High Fives List!, time
Amanda Potter Sacks, 11:59pm
Anonymous, 11:26pm
Matthew Leemhuis, 11:26pm
Anthony Brown, 11:18pm
John Lloyd, 11:10pm
Betty Schulman, 11:05pm
Dan Alt, 11:01pm
Glenn Gray, 11pm
William Cundiff, 10:48pm
Andrew Gaeckle, 10:46pm
Michael Gomez, 10:45pm
Juliana Williems, 10:44pm
Melani Robinson, 10:42pm
Monisha Kapila, 10:34pm
Mira Smith, 10:33pm
Brian Levenson, 10:28pm
Melani Fineman, 10:26pm
Matt Hudson, 10:16pm
Yael Rhodes, 10:15pm
Corey Timbers, 10:11pm
Mary and Terry Fairbanks, 10:04pm
Lily Goldstein, 9:58pm
Martin Weiss, 9:55pm
Charlotte Gruen, 9:47pm
John Guzman, 9:44pm
Adi Rose & Eliana Henderson, 9:44pm
Tim Spear, 9:42pm
Ryan Marchbank, 9:40pm
Andrew Johnson, 9:20pm
Jessica Trevelyan, 9:19pm
Nancy Armour, 9:19pm
Edwin Lohmeyer, 9:16pm
Anonymous, 9:15pm
Stephanie Wolfram, 9:11pm
Kenneth Clash, 8:48pm
C Douglas and Joi Hollis, 8:43pm
Kevin Jackson, 8:39pm
Ralph Pace, 8:30pm
Marisa Majsak, 8:12pm
Christine Okpych, 8:06pm
Jeff Schwartz, 7:59pm
Anonymous, 7:53pm
Judith Kemp, 7:50pm
Heidi Hochstetler, 7:45pm
Karen Lloyd, 7:45pm
Charles Baker, 7:43pm
Maria Cabieses, 7:23pm
Michael Nelson, 7:03pm
Anonymous, 6:54pm
Connie Lindenauer, 6:37pm
Geoff Okpych, 6:31pm
Roberto Castello-Ortiz, 6:27pm
Aleta Greer, 6:16pm
Laura Perry, 6:13pm
Brandon Frazier, 6:06pm
Anonymous, 5:59pm
Simon Landau, 5:54pm
Elaine Lasnik-Broida, 5:50pm
Emily Baskin, 5:49pm
Leah Hochstetler, 5:43pm
Seth Davidson, 5:38pm
Nikki Allinson, 5:32pm
Ronald Buch, 5:31pm
Tammy White, 5:25pm
Mary Kusler, 5:23pm
Mary Lord, 5:14pm
Tim Preotle, 5:10pm
Liora Klepper, 5:06pm
Jacqui Kemp, 4:57pm
Chris Hudler, 4:56pm
Meredith Whitfield, 4:54pm
Karen Lovtich, 4:53pm
Deb Freedholm, 4:52pm
Anonymous, 4:49pm
Felix and Jordan Bookey Lloyd, 4:45pm
Dahna Goldstein, 4:44pm
Melissa Kambouris, 4:42pm
Sean Hinkle, 4:34pm
Tiffany Pereira, 4:33pm
Robert Kraus, 4:30pm
Rockford Weitz, 4:29pm
Neil Cave, 4:27pm
Erin Gill, 4:26pm
Kathy and Tim Hinkle, 4:25pm
Joshua McGee, 4:19pm
Walter Okpych, 4:18pm
Justin Feltman, 4:16pm
Denna Klepper, 4:15pm
Stephanie Dencik, 4:14pm
Eric Ahearn, 4:13pm
Dan Henderson, 4:12pm
Cielo Contreras, 4:10pm
Bethany Rubin Henderson, 4:10pm
Anthony Francavilla, 4:03pm
Andrea Custis, 4pm
Mark Sincevinch, 3:35pm
Joe Heilman, 3:28pm
Alyson Blair, 2:52pm
Michelle Malebranche, 2:51pm
Carlos Fonseca, 2:44pm
Jeff Prudhomme, 2:41pm
Gregory Honan, 2:37pm
Dustin Fronczak, 2:31pm
Matt Winton, 2:29pm
David Rivera, 2:21pm
Anonymous, 2:14pm
Stephen Eberhardt, 2:09pm
Robert Levine, 2:08pm
Hannah Estifanos, 2:06pm
Rachael Levine, 1:43pm
Maureen Mahon, 1:29pm
Maura Vanderzon, 1:20pm
Michael Rocco, 1:19pm
Rachel Hampton, 1:18pm
Greg Richey, 1:04pm
Amy Nakamoto, 1:04pm
Robert Warshaw, 1:04pm
Holly O'Donnell, 1:03pm
Benjamin Fax, 12:57pm
Amy and Fred Rubin, 12:55pm
Lisa Rita, 12:32pm
Phillip Knight, 12:26pm
Pamela Cranna, 12:23pm
Beth Powell, 12:13pm
Anonymous, 12:11pm
Sebastian Driver Salazar, 12:09pm
Angela Gillis, 12:09pm
Robert McCarthy, 12:05pm
Mary Amorosino, 12:05pm
Joshua Shnider, 11:45am
Matt Anzur, 11:34am
Sue Bell, 11:31am
Cristine Romano, 11:30am
Nancy Bagot, 11:24am
Dave Crespo, 11:22am
Catherine Heron, 11:17am
Steve Goodman, 11:16am
Jessica Trevelyan, 11:13am
Albert Schneider, 11:13am
Andrea Custis, 11:12am
Jake Lloyd, 11:10am
Greta Poku-Adjei, 11:08am
Sam Healy, 11:08am
Katrina Owens, 11:07am
Walter Okpych, 11:07am
Hal Kenety, 11:07am
Taylor Russell, 11:06am
Kenny Owens, 11:06am
Tricia Aoki, 11:05am
Adam Rubinfield, 11:05am
Dana Harris, 11:04am
Rachel Klepper, 11:03am
Anonymous, 11:03am
Sarah Merchak, 11am
Marilyn Neiswander, 10:53am
Mo Lyons, 10:51am
Patricia Zebrowski, 10:40am
Jennifer Neville, 10:39am
Chloe Zachary, 10:37am
Aya Takeuchi, 10:33am
Steve Lilley, 10:25am
Anonymous, 10:23am
Robert and Patty Watkins, 10:23am
Walter Okpych, 10:21am
David Sheon, 10:08am
Sherika and Ben Shnider, 10:03am
Carlos Espindola, 9:59am
Chris Richardson, 9:58am
Duha Elmardi, 9:57am
Elizabeth Bradley, 9:48am
Carl and Marji Smith, 9:47am
Deborah Short, 9:42am
Ainsley Daigle, 9:39am
Paul Jackson, 9:33am
Lauren Bogard, 9:25am
John Neiswander, 9:24am
Michael Rubin, 9:23am
Josh Freedholm, 9:20am
Ayan Rubin, 9:17am
Daren Flitcroft, 9:16am
Alex Glomb, 9:16am
Tim Huether, 9:12am
Eve Zhurbinskiy, 9:12am
Matt DeMazza, 9:09am
Rachel Shnider, 9:06am
Lauren Smith, 9:05am
Laura Batty, 8:57am
Mindi Levitz, 8:56am
James Armold, 8:55am
Libby Watkins, 8:51am
Caity Rogowski, 8:49am
Lisa Freda, 8:46am
Kate DeMazza, 8:44am
Anonymous, 8:39am
Francesa Lamanna, 8:35am
Angel Horacek, 8:32am
Anonymous, 8:28am
Cal Klausner, 8:27am
Tim Preotle, 8:27am
Monica Freas, 8:26am
Monica Notzon, 8:25am
Jennifer Oxley, 8:23am
Rory Channer, 8:22am
Anthony Francavilla, 8:18am
Paige Lovejoy, 8:18am
Harriet Cutshall, 8:15am
Hirsh Kravitz, 8:14am
Andrea Custis, 8:13am
Kelley Ryan, 8:13am
Mark Lewis, 8:12am
Anthony Francavilla, 8:11am
Kenny Owens, 8:03am
Daniel Liss, 8:03am
Stuart Trevelyan, 8:03am
Kelly Dragelin, 8am
Anonymous, 8am
Jessica Trevelyan, 8am
Amy Wrona, 7:58am
Melissa Dana, 7:58am
Anonymous, 7:35am
Susan John, 7:17am
Israel Coutin, 7:16am
Katrina Owens, 7:14am
Christina Tunison, 6:48am
Anne Woodworth, 6:14am
James Majewski, 5:35am
Anonymous, 12:07am

Monday, May 30, 2016

DC SCORES service-learning: Imagine Hope creates school garden out of recycled soda bottles

Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

Ever since Jerome Clemons arrived at Imagine Hope Community Charter School’s Tolson campus four years ago and began coaching DC SCORES in the fall of 2013, he and his teams of Soaring Eagles — the school’s mascot — have had to improvise.

The school, which sits on Edgewood Street NE nearly on top of the train tracks that head south downtown and north to Silver Spring, Md., has no green space. Literally, nothing. When walking out the doors on either the south or north side of the building, a visitor is greeted with asphalt.

Now what can kids do on a plot of hard ground that basically resembles a parking lot? Well, you should have been at the school the afternoon of Friday, May 20, for the culmination of Imagine Hope’s DC SCORES service-learning project.


There, on that blacktop, were dozens of third- through fifth-grade DC SCORES kids creating a garden of recycled bottles. They’d poke holes in every bottle — 2-liters, 20-ouncers, larger jugs, you name it — then fill them with soil and flowers. The portable plants would then be passed on to receive water before finally being set down with the others along a fence.

Over the course of a couple hours, an innovative, soda bottle garden was born.

How popular was this event? Well, the Imagine Hope students were joined in service by, among others: sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade alumni who have stayed connected to the program through Clemons and the Classroom Champions nonprofit that he also runs at the school; Steve Mesler, the head of Classroom Champions, and dozens of Olympic athletes from the Team USA Athletes Advisory Council; James Cole Jr., the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education; and a U.S. Senator, Adrian Smith of Nebraska.

During two hours of after-school time, the mix of people from various backgrounds worked as if they’d been teambuilding for years to create a garden and also clean up several blocks of the surrounding neighborhood. Teams were color-coded, with the orange, purple and red clean squads returning to the school with heavy bags of trash.

This was all after the kids got a chance to network with the Olympians, asking various athletes all about their distinguished careers and receiving loads of advice. And it was after the kids, with Cole Jr. and Smith’s assistance, raised and affixed a United States flag for the first time outside their school building and sang God Bless America.


Imagine Hope has come a long way in Clemons’ three years coaching DC SCORES. First, the program brought a soccer team to the K-8 school; now, led by athletic director Jason Knecht, there are several sports team that keep the majority of the student body active once the final school bell rings.

The first couple years, the DC SCORES team walked several blocks to the closest parks to practice soccer. Now, while it’s not ideal, they play on mini goals that they set up on the blacktop.

The Soaring Eagles have taken great pride in becoming a poetry powerhouse within DC SCORES, with fifth-grader Leron representing the school at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! (and on the local NBC station) in 2015 and the team performing well at the DC Slam! every fall.

Through DC SCORES, kids both currently in the program and now still engaged as middle schoolers have recognized that they don’t have to be limited by their facilities and location.

“I think it just gives them, it shows them that they have the ability to make change happen,” Clemons said. “They don’t have to watch somebody else do it; you don’t have to be an adult.

“You literally can be a 3rd through 5th grader or middle schooler and literally within minutes or an hour, make change occur.”


During the past couple years, Clemons showed his DC SCORES teams examples of how around the world, kids play soccer in all places imaginable — making balls out of rags and goals out of trash cans. The kids gained an appreciation for using what they have and making the most of their situation.

And when it came time for service-learning this spring, the team took advantage of a school-wide recycling effort to collect bottles and keep them from ending up in the trash.

“We saw some images online of hey, how can you create a garden out of recycled goods,” Clemons said, referring to the researching stage of DC SCORES’ service-learning season. “So we got some palettes that we worked on, had folks donate small water bottles, large 2-liters, any bottle — bring it in — and let’s see what we can turn that into.”

Partnering with the Olympic athletes and having Cole Jr. and Smith help made the big day, named “Hope Helps,” even more enjoyable and rewarding for the kids — the culmination of months of examining the community’s needs and researching what could be done.

“It means that you take pride in your neighborhood, your community,” said Brandon, an Imagine Hope student, as he returned from one of the clean zones with a bag of trash slung over his shoulder. “We don’t want to go to school in a dirty hood.”

The afternoon expanded kids’ minds in more ways than one. First, they learned about new sports that were, yes, Olympic events! Curling. Archery. Rugby. Ping-pong. They gathered around table tennis champion Han Xiao as he showed them video of the sport on his phone; they grilled former U.S. Rugby captain James Gillenwater about the sport (“I learned that rugby is a combination between soccer and football,” said student Israellee); and they were introduced to curling and archery.

Then they learned that they don’t need green grass to beautify their school grounds. Bottles. Soil. A couple tools. Some seeds. And water.

A garden of recycled bottles was born.

“What my idea for them to understand was, You can do it,” Clemons said afterward. “Just because you might not have the resources, it just gives you the opportunity. You can do it with a little bit of seeds, some water, a bottle — literally.

“It might not look the best, but at least (you got) to get something off the ground; this is something you can do at home.

“Literally, you can turn any space or any item possibly into a little green outside garden”