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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Going to the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! — Meet Jency

Written by Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

Jency M., a fifth grader at Barnard Elementary School, has never been to New York City. But when she takes on the Big Apple on April 13 for the 9th Annual America SCORES National Poetry SLAM!, she already knows where she wants to go.

“The Statue of Liberty,” Jency said. “And the One Direction store!”

Jency will be joining a group of young poets from America SCORES affiliates across the nation when she takes to the stage next month to perform the poem that won her first place at the Westside DC SCORES Poetry Slam! in December.

The poem, which addresses issues of bullying and the importance of staying true to one’s self, is based on Jency’s own experiences at school.

“At school, I see a lot of people, like, changing their outfits to be more like other people,” she said.

Jency started writing poetry thanks to her grandfather, who she said was a “poetry man.” When her mother learned that DC SCORES offered poetry and self-expression sessions in addition to a soccer program, she encouraged Jency to get involved because she knew her daughter enjoyed both of those things.

“I like writing poetry because you can express your feelings in writing and other people can read it,” Jency said, “It doesn’t need to rhyme either — you just need to be you.”

When she performed her poem at the Slam!, Jency said she was pretty nervous.

“There were so many people, and you don’t know what they’re saying about your poem,” she said. “I had butterflies in my stomach, especially when they called my name [when I won].”

Jency said the support of her friends, classmates and teachers helped her to get over her nerves. Though she says she’s also pretty nervous about the National SLAM!, she’s really excited for the trip to New York and all of the planned activities. Oh, and for one other thing, too.

“The pizza,” Jency said, “Definitely the pizza.”


Stayed tuned for more updates about the America SCORES Poetry SLAM! In New York April 13 as we follow Jency and poet No. 2 (revealed soon) on their journey to the national stage.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring DC SCORES explained

On the last day of February, dozens upon dozens of DC teachers woke up early on a Saturday morning and visited Jefferson Middle School.

The purpose? DC SCORES' Coach Kickoff training.

With our program's 21th spring season just days away, our staff took the coaches representing 45 public and public charter elementary and middle schools through a series of exercises designed to prepare them for the months ahead.

During breaks in the training, I chatted with coaches about their schools. Charles Robinson told me that his students at Truesdell Education Campus asked him all winter when programming would begin and even played games in the snow.

Well, kids, today has finally arrived. And with the weather cooperating -- temperatures in the 50s! -- this afternoon you'll find hundreds of kids playing soccer during the critical after-school hours. Others will be in a classroom with their team of peers, beginning the three-month process of brainstorming and then implementing a service-learning project to better their school and/or great community.

Soccer + service-learning -- that's what the spring DC SCORES season is about. And through both disciplines, students build on the teamwork they developed at their schools during the fall season and continue to strengthen their communities.

How does our spring program work?

For our 28 elementary school programs, teams have soccer practices twice a week and hold service-learning sessions twice a week. At the middle school level, our 17 programs package soccer and service-learning into a three-hour block twice a week.

The other day, of course, for all our schools is Game Day (see the video below). DC SCORES runs the only elementary and middle public school soccer leagues for both boys and girls in the city. Our first Game Day is March 26 -- elementary schools play on Thursdays and middle schools take the field on Fridays -- and the competition continues until the season-culminating Jamboree! May 30 at Anacostia Park.

What impact does DC SCORES have on the students and schools it serves? Here are a few quotes from coaches:

"A lot of parents and staff participate and come out to the games to support our students, really to just kind of get our kids hyped and amped up when they see them come. Had we not had DC SCORES in our school, we probably would have been just struggling like we had the last few years.”
-- Kenneth Hillard, Drew Elementary School

“This is our third year, and we were begging and begging to become part of DC SCORES. And we’re so glad because the kids are performing, and because they have some outcome. Not only that, they’re looking forward, they’re doing good (in school) because they are in DC SCORES. That represents something that they belong.”
-- Gloria Pieiro-Landing, Seaton Elementary School

"They all want to be on the soccer team. The parents want their kids on the soccer team because they see what it’s like, they see the coaches, and they see the personalities of the kids, that the kids are playing soccer and writing and it’s upping their test scores."
 -- Shannon Nelson, Brightwood Education Campus

And there you have it. This spring, we hope you can attend an event or a High Five! Tour; volunteer (we have many one-time and consistent opportunities); and/or give the gift of a team.

Happy first day of programming!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Blake Lindsay, soccer coach at Seaton Elementary School

Next Monday, DC SCORES programming at 45 elementary and middle school students begins throughout the District. It would be impossible to give 1,500 kids the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. This month we highlight Blake Lindsay, who has volunteered his time the last two seasons as an assistant soccer coach at Seaton Elementary School. Blake will continue coaching this spring. Don't wait to join our incredibly fun and growing contingent of volunteers. Find the right opportunity for you and your schedule HERE. And read about Blake's experience below.

Written by Josh Freedholm
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator


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

I was born and raised in Seattle, WA.

I am a foreign policy analyst with a Master's degree in U.S. National Security Policy from Georgetown, but I am currently in search of career opportunities.

DCS: How long have you been playing soccer?

I started playing competitive soccer for the Mavericks of the McGilvra Youth Soccer Club when I was 6 years old, so 27 years, but I began playing soccer in the yard with my brothers much earlier. Beginning in middle school I was often playing on club, school, and indoor soccer teams at the same time. I don't know how my mom managed the logistics with three competitive boys, but she deserves a medal. I played three years of high school varsity soccer for the Bush School Blazers and captained the team to the Washington state 1-A quarterfinals in 1999. I am currently captain of Lincoln's Left Foot, a co-ed soccer team I started in the summer of 2006.

DCS: How did you get involved with DC SCORES?

I was looking for a rewarding avenue for volunteer work in the community and I came across a link to DC SCORES on the website of District Sports. I decided to attend a High Five Tour and I was blown away. I signed up to become a DC SCORES soccer coach that same day.

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

I think the DC SCORES model of using soccer, self-expression, and service-learning to facilitate development is very innovative and powerful. Soccer is a powerful hook for children: the joy of playing needs no further explanation for kids. But the beauty of development through soccer is that the values of the game are the values of community: teamwork, fair play, equality, self-sacrifice, acceptance and hard work. I have been humbled by the tremendous community support for our team at Seaton and impressed by the sophisticated ways that DC SCORES leverages that engagement to facilitate self-expression and service action.

DCS: Describe your experience volunteering for DC SCORES.

As a soccer coach for DC SCORES I am responsible for 28 fourth- and fifth-graders for an hour and a half, three times a week. I had never worked with kids before, so at first the challenge of keeping so many kids engaged was very daunting. But with the guidance of my teacher-coach colleagues, I got the hang of it and seeing my kids progress as individuals and as a team has been tremendously rewarding. This last season we had a turning point when the boys squad was down 0-1 in the second half. The whole team rallied behind them and they came storming back to win. I was so proud to see them come together as a group to deal with adversity. They are such great kids.

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

I like to play soccer, ski, hike and cook.

DCS: Who is your favorite athlete?

Landon Donovan, but Edgar Martinez is a close second.

DCS: One fun fact about you?

I am an Eagle Scout. That may not sound fun, but it was a blast. My father, my brother, and I belonged to a very active and adventurous scout troop in Seattle. Every summer we would organize an expedition backpacking or kayaking trip of 50-100 miles through the remote and breathtaking terrain of the Pacific Northwest. We even summited Mt. Baker. I am still animated by the pull of those wild places.

Monday, March 9, 2015

DC SCORES participant and alumna star on Aspen Institute panel

"I think my game talks for that."

That was the line of the day from Madalin G. at The Aspen Institute Project Play Summit on Feb. 25. Madalin, 13, an eighth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, was responding to a question from panel moderator Allyson Felix, an Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter, about showing people that she can play soccer as a girl.

It was just one highlight from the day, during which Madalin and Erin B., a DC SCORES alumna, spoke alongside other youth sports participants as well as policy experts. The goal of the summit was to share ideas about how to get more youth engaged positively in sport and stay involved. Having kids speak about their ongoing experiences was a great idea.

Madalin and Erin had plenty to share.

Madalin, speaking on the panel 'What Good Looks Like in Youth Sports' alongside Little League World Series star Mo'ne Davis and two other youth, spoke about the importance of her coaches and peers. She told the audience that she was nervous when she first joined the DC SCORES team was ridiculed for being a girl and playing soccer.

The support her coaches and peers provided helped Madalin overcome that obstacle, and now everyone knows she can play. All they have to do is watch her.

"It's always that one person that's going to help you out, that's going to teach you," Madalin said, "and most of that time, that is your coach or best friend that is on the team."

Erin, who participated in DC SCORES for six years -- beginning in third grade at Arts and Technology Academy and continuing through eighth grade at Cesar Chavez Parkside Charter School -- was on a panel called 'Ask Kids What They Want.' Erin was the only kid on the panel, sharing the stage with policy expert Amanda Visek of George Washington Public Health, John West of Whistle Sports, and Eli Wolff of the Inclusive Sports Initiative.

Moderator Gary Hall Jr., a 10-time Olympic gold medalist, asked Erin what she wants in a sports program.

"What I want is a program that is going to be engaging and show (me) more beneficial things I can do in my life," Erin said. "I want to see what college opportunities they can give me and what social opportunities they can give me, like what other kids outside of my school I can talk to, what other programs are out there for me."

Erin took advantage of the opportunities to discover new interests and grow through DC SCORES and believes more program that are available for all youth are needed.

Erin was asked to describe her experience in DC SCORES, and she talked about how she joined the program in third grade and not only began playing soccer regularly but discovered a passion for poetry.

"It helped me become a better scholar because in class they set certain standards for you to have certain grades and to stay focused," Erin said of her DC SCORES coaches.

Both poet-athletes were engaging on their respective panels and made a tremendous impression on audience members. They were heard, and their ideas won't be forgotten as policy decisions are made going forward about how to get more youth involved and enjoying playing sports.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter SCORES at Johnson Middle School: Students design own bowls

Written by Kristen Miano
Digitial Media Intern

A recent Friday was report card day at Johnson Middle School. While the halls were packed with students either lamenting or celebrating their grades, students involved in the Winter DC SCORES program sat down to an activity that was slightly less academic but new to the kids: pottery painting.

All Fired Up, a paint-your-own pottery studio located in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of the District, partnered with DC SCORES to set the students up with brushes, paints, and a bowl of their own to decorate however they wanted.

“We do mobile studios, mainly for schools,” said pottery painting instructor Jenny Demagio, “which is something I love doing because it’s a great chance to show kids that art can be an outlet.”

Before they got to work on their masterpieces, the students learned how their bowls were going to be made. Once they finished painting, the bowls would be taken back to the All Fired Up studio to be placed in the kiln -- a giant, extremely hot oven -- for upward of 36 hours. The long exposure to heat would help glaze the bowls, making them shiny and food-safe for the students to use.

For many students, this was their first time painting pottery.

“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” said Quinnyetta S., age 12, as she used a sponge brush to add polka dots to her purple bowl. “(I’m) painting almost the whole thing.”

No two students designed their bowl the same way. Some used stripes, while others simply painted their entire piece one color. One student painted the inside of his bowl yellow and made the outside green so it could be his “Green Bay” bowl. Another used every color he could fit on the dish and added a clown face to the bottom, dubbing his theme “circus.”

Despite the differences in design, the students all had the same plan for how they were going to use their bowls.

“I’m going to eat out of it,” said Lamar M., age 12.

Things the students said they would eat out of their finished bowls included cereal, macaroni and soup -- and, of course, many of the healthy snacks they learned to prepare during the six-week nutrition season.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seaton and Marie Reed elementary schools come together on same team for soccer clinic

Written by Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

The weather outside was freezing cold, but inside the Marie Reed gym, things were just warming up.

The Panthers gathered in small circles, playing a game called “Head or Catch” with DC SCORES staff members Carlos Fonesca and Zachary Gomes. The students caught or headed soccer balls thrown to them —  with only a second to decide! —  based on instructions shouted by the coach in the middle of the circle.

As Marie Reed warmed up for its final soccer session of the six-week Winter SCORES season, the kids knew this one would be a bit different. The Panthers would be joined by Seaton Elementary School for a scrimmage. There was a catch, though.

The scrimmage was not going to be Reed vs. Seaton. Instead, the students were all mixed up and put onto multiple teams comprised of players from both school.

“What does 'clinic' mean?” Carlos asked the assembled soccer players, “It means we’re going to have fun!”

Each team took a moment for students from the schools to introduce themselves and pick a team name. Though the students seemed a little hesitant initially to play with teammates they had never met before, that quickly melted away when the whistle was blown and the first ball rolled out.

“I’m kind of shy, so I was nervous,” said Elizabeth M., age 9, of Seaton. “But they’re nice and I’m having fun.”

Orquidea B., age 9 of Reed, said she had similar feelings at first, but thought meeting new people was fun.

“The clinic is cool today because we get to play with Seaton,” Orquidea said.

Each team took the field for 10 minutes, rotating around the gym so they had a chance to play against everyone. The din of soccer balls pounding against walls and players shouting encouragement and directions to each other was so loud, it was often hard to hear when the time period was up.

So though there was no clear winner in the Seaton vs. Marie Reed scrimmage, it was clear that the games they played brought these schools and communities together through something they both love — soccer.