Monday, April 21, 2014

$10,000 could change the lives of 10 DC youth

A few of the Wheatley Whales waiting for the bus to the
2010 DC SCORES Fall Frenzy.
Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

We've done A LOT of asking lately. Thanks to the support of many, we reached our Couch to Camp Campaign goal and will be able to provide free summer enrichment for more than 250 DC youth. Some of you have also contributed poems for our blog during National Poetry Month.

But before April's over, we have one final ask -- and it couldn't be simpler.

Help DC SCORES win $10,000. 

Today through Friday at 5pm, we are competing against similarly sized DC charities in the WTOP Click for a Cause competition. Whichever charity receives the most "likes" on the campaign page wins.

(NOTES: Only one vote per person total; you must be on Facebook to vote; you do not have to "like" WTOP or do anything else to participate -- it's that easy.)


Let me put it into tangible terms: That's DC SCORES' full, year-long program -- the soccer, the poetry, the service-learning, the summer camp -- for 10 low-income DC youth.

When I think of the number 10, I reflect on one of my most memorable experiences during five years at DC SCORES. In October of 2010, I was asked to fill in as the coach at Wheatley Education Campus for our annual Fall Frenzy soccer and outdoor activities event.

I had no idea how the day would go or even if kids would show up to spend Saturday with a strange, unfamiliar man. But upon approaching the school around 8am, there they were -- a group of 10 third- and fourth-graders decked out in their purple DC SCORES shirts. Within a minute, we were taking photos together and kidding around like old friends.

I was far from the best soccer coach -- keeping everyone happy is a challenge! -- but I could tell from the kids' smiles and laughter that they had a good time and, despite their overwhelmed coach, learned a few things. I wrote about it in my event recap.

That was far from my only experience at Wheatley, which began the DC SCORES program in 2009. While my job is mostly office-based, during the following years I went to more Wheatley soccer game days than any other school. Every time I visited the school in the Trinidad neighborhood, those same 10 kids were there.

Not only did they grow inches between each of my visits, their soccer skills improved as did their attitudes. The fifth-graders I watched at a game last spring were exponentially better at dribbling the ball, sharing it with their teammates, and being leaders of their team than the kids I coached that 2010 afternoon. The boys team even made it to the City Cup championship game at last June's Jamboree!.

This fall, the Wheatley 10 were too old to play on the DC SCORES team, but they were still present at game day. They loved the program so much and the game they learned through it that they couldn't stay away, so the coaches made them assistants. As I watched them, I could see how much they wanted to be on the field -- but they also demonstrated DC SCORES' core values of teamwork, leadership and commitment by encouraging the current players, handing out water, and giving high fives.

DC SCORES gave those Wheatley students a team, and they ran with it and built a sense of pride and community at the school. At my most recent game day, close to 100 fans sat on the hillside above the school's field to watch the soccer team.

So when I think of what providing DC SCORES for 10 kids mean, I immediately think of those Wheatley students. There are 1,500 youth (150 x 10) served annually by our Arts/Athletics/Academics model, and winning $10,000 this week will help the program continue to grow and achieve our vision of serving every child in Washington, DC, deserving of a team.

Here are three ways you can be a $10K Champion this week:

Thanks for being on our growing team!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Monsoon can't stop huge turnout for DC SCORES Alumni Soccer Tournament

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

(Alumni Tournament photo album).

This Tuesday, dozens of eager soccer players took the field at Tubman Elementary School, paying little attention to the dark clouds looming overhead. Instead, their focus remained on gearing up for a day of friendly competition at the 4th Annual DC SCORES Alumni Tournament.

When I left the DC SCORES office in the morning to head to the tournament, I wasn’t exactly expecting a large turnout. Sure, Mother Nature was offering a respite from the rain that had started overnight, but the forecast was bleak.

Boy, did the DC SCORES alumni prove me wrong.

When I arrived, the field was already packed with high school students decked out in their new DC SCORES alumni T-shirts catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and warming up to play.

DC SCORES alumnus Nana A. said the beauty of the alumni tournament lies in the people involved.

“The alumni tournament brings together old team players from different schools around the DC area. We’re here to have fun and enjoy,” Nana said, adding that he looks forward to seeing familiar faces he hasn’t seen in a while.

The action on the field soon picked up, and the wind and the rain followed suit. The 6-on-6 play continued on, with the players demonstrating unbelievable levels of commitment.

Tents had to be held down and umbrellas were of little use, but, incredibly, the enthusiasm of staff members and alumni alike remained high.

As bursts of heavy rain came and went, we huddled under tents attempting (perhaps in vain) to stay somewhat dry. No one complained, instead taking the opportunity to joke and catch up with fellow attendees. As soon as the rain slowed down, teams excitedly hit the field once again. Eventually, however, the rain became just a bit too wild and the tournament was called, with hopes for a rescheduled date soon.

As I made my way back to the office, clothes and sneakers soaked through, I reflected on the crazy day. It was certainly one of the best examples I’ve encountered during my time with DC SCORES of the immense and unyielding passion all involved have for the organization.

The day was a celebration of the impact DC SCORES had on the tournament’s participants, as well as a beautiful reminder of the power soccer has to form and strengthen bonds between teammates. If staff members didn’t truly believe in this impact, in this power, and in the mission of their employer, I have little doubt they would have avoided hours spent outside in highly adverse weather.

But instead, during what could only be appropriately described as a monsoon, I saw staff members go out of their way to provide the best possible experience for those in attendance, regardless of the elements. Whether that meant manning the grill, ensuring tents didn’t blow away, cheering on players, or attending to the numerous other details of the day, they did it all with a smile.

While chatting with DC SCORES alumna Ana G., I was provided with another example of all we were celebrating during the tournament.

“I started DC SCORES in third grade. Now, I volunteer, referee, and coach. It’s been an awesome experience,” she said. “It’s made me more confident. DC SCORES was a good start for me. The coaches pushed me to be better.”

Hopefully, the next time DC SCORES alumni gather on the soccer field, they can leave the umbrellas at home. But even if the rain comes, I know the dedication of the staff and the alumni will still shine through.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DC SCORES Podcast episode VI: Poetry SLAM!, summer camp, and soccer; oh, my!

On this supersized edition of the DC SCORES podcast, Communications Manager Jake Lloyd and Communications Intern Kara Dunford sit down to discuss a busy month at DC SCORES. Tune in for a rundown of April's highlights, including the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM!, the Couch to Camp Campaign, and more. Plus, hear the song Jake calls his favorite from his five years at DC SCORES.

Download the mp3 file by clicking here, or use the audio controls below to listen to the episode.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to be the first to hear our latest content.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Students come together to fight hunger during Global Youth Service Day

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

Tonight, 17 million children in the United States will go to bed hungry.

This statistic is one of the many that DC SCORES teams from Seaton Elementary School and Thomson Elementary School learned last Friday as part of Global Youth Service Day.

To celebrate the day, children in over 135 countries serve their communities and learn about the world’s most pressing issues. Together with Youth Service America and Sodexo Foundation volunteers, DC SCORES highlighted the work of the Seaton Stingers and Thomson Tigers in understanding childhood hunger through an afternoon of fun activities.

To kick things off, students came together to talk about what it feels like to be hungry.

“You get an ear infection,” offered one student.

While the response provoked a bit of laughter, his answer pointed to the wider effects of hunger - both mental and physical - that are nothing to smile about.

The day’s activities promoted a message of healthy eating and physical activity. Students were divided into teams and rotated through various stations, including a trail mix making station provided by Sodexo that proved to be a hit with the students, and physical fitness stations that challenged the students to show off their athletic skills.

“We’re having fun, but we’re also learning about children who don’t have food,” said Johana S., a fourth-grade student at Thomson.

One of the most powerful stations for me was the arts and crafts table, where students had the chance to design posters to hang in their schools that presented facts about hunger. Though it may seem like a small solution to a large problem, the poster-making project achieved a two-fold purpose: community awareness and action, two central components of the DC SCORES spring service-learning curriculum.

The project made the Stingers and the Tigers aware of the facts about hunger and empowered them to do something about it.

For more sights and sounds of the day and to hear from the students, watch the video above and here. Be sure to stay tuned this spring as elementary and middle schools across the city design and implement service-learning projects!

View Global Youth Service Day photos here

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cresa Washington DC's 'Camp Champs' lead summer camp fundraising campaign

Written by Daniel Meloy
Senior Director of Development & Communications


It’s a time so many kids look forward to. A time to play, to be with friends, to just have fun!

But for many kids who don’t have access to safe, structured activities, summer can mean a time to be stuck on the couch, with the only activity being video games or watching TV.

That’s why DC SCORES offers free summer camps to keep kids active and learning in a safe and structured environment. Our soccer and arts camps engage over 250 kids and help combat summer learning loss as well as fitness loss. We keep kids off the couch!

And to keep our summer camps free to all who participate, each spring we conduct our Couch to Camp Campaign. The annual fundraising campaign runs for several weeks and raises thousands of dollars needed for camp counselors, equipment, supplies, healthy snacks, and buses - all the things that create a fun summer experience.

This year, we wanted to give our Couch to Camp Campaign an extra boost. We asked ourselves, “How do we give the campaign greater exposure and raise more money?”

We didn’t have to look very far for our answer. Our good friends at Cresa Washington DC quickly signed on as the presenting sponsor of the campaign.

Cresa Washington DC has supported DC SCORES in a variety of ways, so it was no surprise that its support for the Couch to Camp Campaign was more than simply writing a check.

With support from the Cresa Washington DC partners and a team of dedicated employees, the company made a generous financial commitment. But then Cresa went one step further, with 10 employees serving as “Camp Champs.” Each Camp Champ set up a personal online fundraising page and has been asking friends, family and colleagues to make donations.

As we head into the final two days of the Couch to Camp Campaign and are close to reaching our fundraising goal, the Camp Champs are hard at work. We are grateful for their commitment to DC SCORES and to the kids we serve. We can’t wait for Cresa Washington DC day at camp this summer, when Cresa employees will attend camp, meet and interact with the kids, and experience first-hand exactly what they are helping to make possible.

Thank you, Cresa Washington DC, for your generosity and dedication to DC SCORES and the kids we serve!

To contribute to this year’s Couch to Camp Campaign, please go HERE.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Service-learning at Seaton Elementary: Grooming a garden for the school community

Written by Kara Dunford
Communications Intern

How do you define community?

What are the differences between superheroes in books and movies and everyday heroes?

As the sun shines and temperatures rise, DC SCORES students are tackling these very questions.

This spring, DC SCORES teams are learning that you don’t have to be Superman rescuing a man trapped in a Metropolis mine to be a hero. Armed with an awareness of your community and its strengths and weaknesses, you too can be an agent of good.

On March 10, spring programming kicked off at 47 public and public charter elementary and middle schools across the city. Through a mixture of soccer and service-learning, the spring curriculum provides students the opportunity to develop both their physical fitness and their sense of community while strengthening bonds between teammates.

Teams at each school brainstorm and implement a service-learning project over the course of the season. Past projects have included a race to raise money for an animal shelter, a technology lesson for senior citizens, a depression awareness campaign, and the creation of a school recycling program, to name just a few.

During my first visit to Seaton Elementary School in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC, the Seaton Stingers told me a bit about how they selected their service-learning project.

As they took a look around their school and neighborhood community, two big problems stood out.

The first: a garden in disarray after the harsh winter.

Last spring, the Stingers created a garden space to grow fruits and vegetables for the school and neighborhood. But during the summer months and then into the fall and winter, the unattended garden was subject to destruction. A lack of respect for the space combined with the months of snow and cold temperatures left the garden in desperate need of some sprucing up.

Just steps away from the garden lies the second problem. Large holes dot the school’s soccer field, posing an injury risk for its young players.

After some thinking, the team of third through fifth graders decided they would sell the fruits and vegetables from their garden to raise the money needed to give the field the care it needs.

Fifth grader Guadalupe S. said she is excited to begin work on the project and hopes it will leave her with a sense of accomplishment.

“I think I will feel happy because I have helped the garden and because I’ve made it a better place,” she said. Airin C., another fifth grade student, said he is most looking forward to planting the fruits and vegetables.

“It’s fun because you get experience with the earth and with nature,” he said.

It won’t be easy, but the Stingers -- in just their second full year of programming -- have proved they are up to a challenge that will require leadership, teamwork, and commitment, DC SCORES’ core principles. This past December, Seaton was crowned the champion at the Westside Poetry Slam!.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Julian C., a fifth-grader. “We’re going to make the garden look more healthy.”

Check out the video above and HERE to see more from the Seaton Stingers. Be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates from a season of soccer and service-learning.