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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DC SCORES coach's journal, part II: Lessons learned from Game 1


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.

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Written by Zachary Gomes 
Soccer Coordinator

So the first game is in the books. We lost, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect our level of play. The girls fought hard all the way through and all of us learned a thing or two.

I learned that I needed to start from the beginning. I noticed three positions while watching the game: defense, offense and the huge bunch of girls running in a pack, back and forth, following the ball everywhere it went. Monday’s practice would have to start with a better explanation of the positions. The first game was a learning experience; it was also amazing.

I couldn’t stop smiling (as evidenced by photos); I was so proud of the girls.

Gabriela A., who has never played soccer before (imagine that!), played goalie for the first time and even though she let some goals in, she never gave up. At the end of the game, she charged out of the box, leapt in the air and saved a towering shot!

In her excitement, she proceeded to almost back into the goal. I made a note to myself to do some goalie training after talking soccer positions on Monday. I was impressed by Gabriela’s determination. She had played her first game of soccer and pushed through the challenges. She had displayed real courage.

As the girls walked off the field, Jossellyn A, who has been in DC SCORES since third grade, ran up to Gabriela and gave her a double high five. With that simple act of camaraderie, Jossellyn exemplified the power DC SCORES can have on a kid. Jossellyn demonstrated leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork and friendship. She supported her teammate and showed a level of maturity anyone could learn a lesson from.

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“I am from” was the prompt for one of last week’s poetry classes. The kids and I are now in a beautiful classroom, and the change of setting from the cafeteria has made a real difference. The “I am from” prompt encourages the children to not only write about the places they are from but to think about the experiences that have formed them. It is a perfect activity for the kids to learn more about one another and to delve a little deeper into their own evolution.

It was amazing to hear the kids share their poems. Brianna V., who is in DC SCORES for the first time and usually never shares her writing, was so inspired by others sharing that she finally read aloud to the class. Everyone clapped when she was done, her face turned a bright red and her smile started at one ear and went to the other.

I am from El Salvador.
I am from my beautiful, caring mother.
I am from the nacho cheese chips I eat at lunch.
I am from the soccer field and scoring a goal.

The kids got creative and respected one another, allowing each and every student in the class a chance to share. It was awesome to be a part of. Practices are going well and game two is right around the corner. Not to mention the Poetry Slam! is coming, and coming fast. Stay tuned. Much more to come.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part II: All About Me



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

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Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

Since I began attending the Brightwood after-school writing sessions, I’ve been working on my own poetry. It’s been awhile since I learned about similes and metaphors, so I decided to take full advantage of Monday’s DC SCORES lesson and tuned in for a refresher course.

I am DC SCORES. Hear me roar — Well, it’s a work in progress.

The “All About Me” poetry lesson begins with the mechanics of similes. The curriculum is designed to engage the students in comparative thinking. Coach Rachel Rosenberg writes on the board, “He is cold as ice,” and the students begin to interpret this simile.

After dissecting the phrase, the lesson moves on to metaphors and the room erupts. The classroom of Brightwood Panthers transforms into a room of otters, eagles, dolphins, cheetahs and the like.


There is even a hyena sitting right next to me. “I am a hyena because I like to laugh really loud,” says Hikma H.

“I am a dolphin because I know how to dive!” says Alazar T.

The metaphors come from every stretch of the imagination.

As a transition to writing, the students listen to a few example “I Am” poems. They discuss what they interpret as the meaning of each poem. Coach Shannon Nelson then begins to read a list of questions as a starting point for the students’ own “I Am” poems.

If you were a color, which one would you be?
If you were a food, what would you be?
What if you were a shape?
A musical instrument?
What do you like about yourself?
What are you proud of?
What are three things you hope for?

The students’ answers are eclectic and the room transforms once again. We are now a room of purples, reds, apples, triangles, drums, proud athletes, future authors, doctors, singers, dancers, believers, dreamers.

Then Coach Nelson poses the most thought-provoking question yet: “What will you be doing 20 years from today?” This stirs the room a bit.

“Where will I be in 20 years? What will I be doing? Where will I be working?” Betelihem G. asks me emphatically, as if I am Pandora’s box holding all her answers. “That is entirely up to you,” I tell her.

She pauses to consider this for a moment. I can tell her thoughts are dramatic as she searches for an answer to the question. “I’ll be running my own game show,” she says finally. Her direction in life is unbounded, but for right now, this is a wonderful prediction.

“These are tough questions,” says Carlos G. while staring at his full journal page. And he’s right. The activity challenges the students to think about themselves in an alternative light. At this time, they are no longer simple beings. They are complex individuals with infinite dimensions.

The Power of Poetry is transcendent at Brightwood, especially when students are given chances like these to celebrate who they are.

And the season is still young. Much more to come!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part I: Color Me Poetry



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

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Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

Close your eyes and think about how the color purple makes you feel. What does purple taste like? Smell like? Feel like?

These are the questions Brightwood Education Campus students are answering on Monday during their “Color Me Poetry” lesson. Writing coach Rachel Rosenberg takes the floor and asks each student to take a minute, set all pencils aside and simply listen. She reads to the silent class a few poems written by other students like themselves. She tells them anytime they hear a color to think about how it makes them feel.

“Reflect on all the sights, sounds and feelings flooding into your mind when listening to these poems,” she says.

There is much emphasis on reflecting quietly during this activity.

The takeaway from this lesson, during the third week of the DC SCORES season, is that self-expression is more than writing words on a page. It’s a long, multi-step creative process that begins with reflection. Shannon Nelson, another of the DC SCORES coaches at Brightwood, explains that it is important for the structure of the program — and its 167-page ‘Power of Poetry’ curriculum — to guide the students from easier tasks, such as self-reflection, to eventually writing meaningful works of poetry.


The ultimate goal of poetry sessions is to teach the students that there are many creative ways to articulate themselves, and that no way is wrong. It is just as important for the students to understand that good writing takes time and effort.

Nelson and Rosenberg consistently reiterate to students that patience, reflection and consistent writing are imperative for improving their skills. This is why the students are given 10 minutes at the beginning of every poetry session to free write. This is also why the initial lessons like “Color Me Poetry” are so crucial.

Asking the students to write about how a particular color makes them feel engages them in a new level of abstract thinking. It initiates the creative thought process and employs them to explore a range of emotions they have connected to that color.

One student told me the color red made him think of the brick wall outside in the courtyard, a place where he can run around freely after school. Another student told me that the color aqua makes her feel “strange.” When asked why, she said because her mom doesn’t like that color. “But blue makes me happy,” she added. “My mom and I both like blue better than aqua. ” She connected the color blue to happiness because it is a similarity she shares with her mother. It is these types of realizations that are fostered through creative lesson plans.

It may seem trivial to those who have been writing for years, but taking the time to think abstractly preps the brain for deeper thought and, ultimately, artful works of self-expression.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DC SCORES coach's journal, Part I: The first day of programming


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.

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Written by Zachary Gomes
Soccer Coordinator

This fall, I am the writing coach and girls soccer coach at Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. I live very close to the school, and before I began working at DC SCORES I spent most of my afternoons playing pick-up soccer in the neighborhood.

On the first day I visited Lincoln, I arrived at the soccer field wearing a DC SCORES shirt and shorts. Kids and adults walked up to me instantly, telling me they were a part of DC SCORES, how much they loved the organization and how they couldn’t wait for the season to begin. The fact I was associated with DC SCORES made integrating into my new surroundings a thousand and forty-seven times easier. It was truly amazing.

Programming at Lincoln started on Sept. 15. The way the middle school season works, on Monday and Wednesday we have writing and then walk to the soccer field for practice; Fridays are reserved for Game Day.

Coach Zach at his firstLincoln  soccer practice
I prepared for the opening day of programming by writing an introductory lesson. My plan was to 1. I will introduce myself, and the kids will love me. 2. I will play some icebreaker and teambuilding games -- coaches are provided with a plethora of resources and examples during training -- and have everyone laughing and loving my awesome teaching style. 3. I will introduce them to their writing journals and explain how important they are to the class. 4. They will begin to decorate their notebooks, making them unique, their own. 5. If we have more time, we will do a group writing exercise and, of course, if needed, I would whip out some of the games I keep in my back pocket. 6. We will walk the four blocks to Tubman Elementary School, where Lincoln has its soccer practices. 7. We will do some running, stretching, passing, shooting, sweating, smiling and have a generally awesome first practice.

What actually happened?

I got to Lincoln early and was brought to the cafeteria. Soon, 42 very excited children filled the large room and I was bombarded with questions and comments.

“Are you our coach!?” “Who are you?” “You’re not Charity!” (last year’s coach). “Why are you wearing those shoes??” “Do you like soccer?” “Do you speak Spanish?” “Are we gonna get uniforms? And where is our snack??”

My plan did not go according to design, but that’s okay as improvisation is also fun. At one point during writing, I turned the cafeteria into a maze and blindfolded some of the students with my sweatshirt. The blindfolded students had to listen to the directions of their team to try to find a chair I had placed on the other side of the room. This game was a hit.

Soccer practice was great. The girls were incredibly excited to be on the field, and it was immediately clear that I had some natural-born leaders on my team. After running a lap around the field, the girls formed a circle and Katie -- an eighth-grader who has been in DC SCORES for three years -- walked into the middle and began leading a team stretch. I had not asked for Katie to take the lead, but I certainly did not complain when she did

Overall, the first day was a success. There were problems, but that was to be expected. The most important thing as a coach, I kept coming back to, is to constantly remind yourself why you have gotten into this position in the first place; why you are out on a field playing soccer with kids. Why self-expression and empowerment is so important.

For me, it’s because I love it. I love being part of something bigger than myself, being part of a team, having my work provide a space where youth can express themselves and feel comfortable. There is lots of work to be done, and our team culture is still being built in the writing classroom and on the field. I anticipate good times and trying times to be part of our future at Lincoln Middle School, and I am excited to share with you the triumphs and challenges that are yet to come as a DC SCORES coach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photo blog: The first 7 days of DC SCORES' fall season

Today is just the eighth day of DC SCORES programming for 1,500 youth across the District, but much has already happened. Here are some photos to illustrate the beginning of our 20th autumn providing the arts, athletics and academics for DC youth.

DAY 1: Lincoln Middle School, Ward 1


The Lincoln Knights were hard at work the first day of programming, warming up for soccer practice with several exercises.

DAY 3: Burrville Elementary School, Ward 7


Coach Daryl Forte is beginning his 15th season coaching the Eagles, and his approach doesn't change. Expectations are set during the first week of practice.

DAY 4: Truesdell Education Campus, Ward 4


Fifty kids. Fifty! That's how many elementary school children came out for DC SCORES programming during the first week. Truesdell also has a thriving middle school program. DC SCORES is a huge part of the school's identity and culture. Look for a Truesdell Trojan nearby!

DAY 5: Barnard Elementary School at The White House, Ward 2


Programming wasn't a week old, but the Barnard Bears were in midseason form when they put on a clinic for guests at The White House during the Social Innovation Fund's "What Works" Showcase.

DAY 6: C.W. Harris' alphabetic scavenger hunt, Ward 7


The Viking immersed themselves in self-expression during an early lesson, thinking of 36 words that identified their school's neighborhood and writing them in their journals.

DAY 7: Alphabetic string poems at Anne Beers Elementary, Ward 8


At Anne Beers Elementary, students studied their poetry classroom and identified objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet. They then wrote five-line poems using an alphabetic string of five words!

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Check out our large collection of photos from Brightwood Education Campus' first week of writing, and see all photos from the season -- both soccer and writing -- on Flickr

Stay up to date with all things DC SCORES by following us on Twitter @DCSCORES and searching the hashtags #PowerOfPoetry and #SCORESfall114.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Volunteer spotlight: Ted Webne, Lincoln Middle School soccer coach

Written by Josh Freedholm
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

On Monday, DC SCORES began programming for elementary and middle school students throughout the District. It would be impossible to give 1,500 students the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. This month we highlight Ted Webne, who on Monday returned for his second year as a volunteer soccer coach. Ted coached last season at J.C. Nalle Elementary School and is coaching the Lincoln Middle School team on the pitch this year. Check out our interview with Ted and some photos of his first day on the field with his new team!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.DCSCORES.org.

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DCS: Where are you from and where do you work?

I am from Alexandria, VA, and I work at Mary Mcleod Bethune Day Academy Public School as a Behavior Intervention Specialist.

DCS: How did you get involved with DC SCORES?

I became familiar with DC SCORES through friends and I decided that it would be the best way for me to give my time.

DCS: What do you find most interesting about DC SCORES?

DC SCORES is an ambassador for the sport that I have a passion for, in the city that I love.

DCS: Describe your experience volunteering for DC SCORES.

DC SCORES has provided me with the opportunity to help introduce the game of soccer to several first-time players in Washington, DC. I know first-hand that a commitment to soccer can lead to a lifetime of positive experiences. For this reason, I am confident in the potential for the DC SCORES program to make a difference in all of the lives of the children it serves.

DCS: What do you like to do with your free time?

When I am not coaching soccer, I am usually playing it. Otherwise, I like to hang out with friends.

DCS: Who is your favorite singer or poet?

My favorite singer is Thom Yorke or Bill Withers.

DCS: Who is your favorite athlete?

My favorite athlete is "Number 18, Nate Burkey, striker for the Azkals.” Nate and I played at T.C. Williams High School together. He currently plays for the Philippine National team and Ceres FC. Through his committed service to under-served communities in Manila, Nate is also able to live out his passion for bringing the game to those who might not otherwise get the opportunity to play.