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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

DC SCORES coach's journal, Part VI: Service-learning begins

Zachary Gomes moved to Washington, DC, last August 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 time with DC SCORES is coaching poetry, service-learning and girls soccer at Lincoln Middle School. Throughout the year Zach will share his experiences, providing insight on the impact of DC SCORES -- through the eyes of a coach.


Written by Zachary Gomes
Soccer Coordinator

Spring is finally upon us! And with spring begins another DC SCORES season.

At Lincoln, DC SCORES is built into the school day and continues throughout the winter months (which is great because we get to continue practicing, as long as it’s not too cold). All winter Katie S., an eighth-grader, the team captain, a central defender and a DC SCORES student since elementary school, practiced free kicks. Every day she would say, “Watch this, Zach. I’m getting more strength in my shot!”

Katie’s practicing paid off. In the first game of the spring season after a scoreless first half, we were awarded a penalty kick in the box. Katie jogged up confidentially from her central defense position and placed the ball on the penalty marker. She took a couple of steps back and blasted the ball into the lower left corner of the goal!

Katie’s confidence was contagious and Jossellyn A., another 8th grader, poked a ball by the keeper a couple of minutes later, after not giving up on a botched cross. The girls played great, we won our first game, and I was happy that they were happy.

Spring season also means DC SCORES service-learning. When I first learned about DC SCORES, I was super excited to coach soccer but the idea of getting to teach poetry classes and work with students to create a service-learning project equally pumped me up!

The Poetry Slam! was the highlight of the fall season, and as the team began talking about our service-earning project I got excited thinking of the change for good the kids could create.

Service-learning is all about empowering the kids to be the leaders. Through service-learning, youth are no longer considered the recipient of services but are rather people who are willing to give, have vision, and can contribute positively to the community.

The exciting and important thing is that DC SCORES service-learning allows youth to actively engage within society. It gives them a voice and proves to them that with work, that voice will be heard.


As we began to talk about what our service-learning project would be, it was an important first step to define community. Did community mean the neighborhood, the school, or did it mean the whole world!?

By breaking the kids up into groups and asking them to define community through a collage of pictures and words, the discussion over what community meant began. The collages also helped point out positive and negative issues that existed within the community.

I then asked the students to think about community groups — neighborhoods, families, friends, social groups, school, ethnicity/racial, cultural and religious groups — and answer these two questions: What would you like to see changed? What are you proud of?

Almost every student chose to write about family. It was overwhelming. The messages were very similar.

“I love my family but we need to speak more to each other. One thing I am proud of is celebrating holidays together.”

“My family helps me when I am in need.”

“My family is important, they care about me and I wish I could do more activities with them.”

“I like eating with my family.”

“I like going places with my family.”

“I would stop arguments in my family.”

These are just some of the things the kids wrote about. Consistently, family was the number one focus for the students.


After sharing this information with the team, I asked the students to tell me what the theme seemed to be. Family and quality time spent with family is what they got from it. And so organically began the discussion of how we can address this issue.

The kids had a million good ideas.

“Let’s have a family day where we all go to Six Flags!”

“Let’s make bracelets that say Family First!”

“We could have a cookout and soccer tournament for family at the park!”

The ideas are flowing and — as part of the curriculum — the kids will make the final decision on their service-learning project soon. I am excited to help them sort through the ideas and create an action plan.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Creating change at Truesdell EC, Part II: Choosing the project!

During the DC SCORES spring season, each of our 44 teams go through a four-step service-learning process that involves A) Identifying problems that need addressing in their community; B) Researching one issue; C) Implementing a project to make a difference in the community; and D) Reflecting on the impact they made.

This spring, DC SCORES intern Kristen Miano is following the Truesdell Education Campus (elementary school) Trojans as they go through the service-learning process. Read below and watch each week’s video to learn how DC SCORES empowers youth to create change around them. You can also view photos from Truesdell HERE and follow Kristen's Tweets HERE


Written by Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

The votes are in: The Truesdell Trojans will be cleaning up their school and encouraging others to do the same for their spring SCORES service-learning project.

“The overall project goal is to reduce the amount of trash in the building,” said Cailin Eisle, one of the Truesdell writing coaches.

Now that the team has an issue to tackle, the next phase of the project is to conduct research and construct a plan in order to achieve their goal.

To jump start the planning process, the Trojans were treated to a special guest speaker last week — Ms. Duckett of the Truesdell custodial staff.

“The students were able to brainstorm questions and ask [Ms. Duckett] questions,” Cailin said. “That will hopefully keep them engaged in their project.”

Ms. Duckett has seen the trash problem first hand at Truesdell, and had some great ideas for where the team could target their efforts as they begin working toward a cleaner school.

“The classrooms and the lunch room are the two areas with the most need for trash clean up,” Ms. Duckett said. “And paper trash is the biggest problem. School papers, homework papers, paper towels — all kinds of paper creates the most trash.”

The kids made sure to take notes about all the information Ms. Duckett provided, including what tools they can use to pick up trash, how to keep track of what work has already been done, and the best ways to motivate other students to be diligent about cleaning up.

“Ask them nicely to pick up their trash,” Ms. Duckett advised. “Also, posters that say ‘Keep your school clean’ or ‘Clean up after yourself’ could be helpful.”

After the discussion was over, the students spent some time making thank you cards for Ms. Duckett and reflecting on what they had learned.

“I learned that picking up trash doesn’t need to take too much time,” said Yocelyn M., age 10.

Bryan M. also thought Ms. Duckett had some greats bits of advice and came away from the lesson with an idea of how to move their project forward.

“We can put signs in hallways and bathrooms,” he said, “to tell [people] they don’t need to leave trash on the floor.”

The Trojans learned a great deal from Ms. Duckett’s experience and are charging ahead into their school-cleaning project armed with excellent information and some grand plans and ideas.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Going to the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! -- Meet Leron

Written by Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

Leron B., a fourth-grader at Imagine Hope Community Charter School -- Tolson Campus in Washington DC, drew inspiration for his award-winning poem from an unlikely source: history class.

“My poem is about how people weren’t free, like in slavery, when the African Americans weren’t free and people had to fight for freedom in the Civil War,” Leron said. “I was learning about it, and that’s why I made the poem.”

Leron’s poem not only won him the Shine Award at the Eastside DC SCORES Poetry Slam! in December, but it also got him a ticket to New York City where he will take the stage with other young poets from across the nation at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM!

“I’m excited to see all the buildings,” Leron said of the trip. “Well, no. Just that one building. The really tall one.”

Leron, of course, means the Empire State Building, one of the many destinations he and DC SCORES’ other representative, Jency M., will find themselves at during their trip.

While he’s very excited about going to New York, LeRon confessed that he’s feeling a little anxious.

“I’m nervous because I’m going to be in front of a lot of people,” Leron said.

When he performed his poem at the Slam! in December, Leron said he wasn’t as nervous because the theater was dark and he couldn’t see the audience.

“And I was having fun because I was backstage before, yelling and goofing around,” he said.

Leron said his favorite part of writing poetry is the chance to get on stage and do some acting, but he also enjoys the creative process that goes into crafting a poem.

“I like writing poetry because I get to write a rhythm and have a lot of fun,” he said. “I started writing poetry because I was in DC SCORES and I was just having fun.”

Beyond the writing and the rhymes, Leron attests that he has learned an important lesson from his experience writing poetry.

“I learned what freedom is,” he said. “I learned how some people might not be free and what it’s all about.”

On April 13, Leron will perform that lesson for hundreds of people on another big stage. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

National Poetry Month: Celebrating the self-expression of the DC SCORESTeam!

Happy National Poetry Month!

As you know, poetry and self-expression is a huge part of the DC SCORES fall season -- culminating with the District's largest Poetry Slam! in December. The Slam! demonstrates the creativity of the 1,500 youth we serve.

Now, this April, we are highlighting you -- our supporters, coaches, alumni, partners, staff and board. Check back daily for a new poem. And if you haven't yet, write a poem or haiku about anything -- that's the beauty of poetry -- and send it to Jake Lloyd at jlloyd@americascores.org.


April 16
Rituals, nuptials, untraditional traditions
Never been one to stop doing my own thing
But now it’s ours, community property but not like Monopoly
The time is approaching and everything is in motion
But I am still thinking about eloping…

Dontai Smalls
DC SCORES Board Member

April 15
The Time is Here
When the grass gets that fresh smell
And the ground is soft
that's when I know
the best time is here

It's soccer in the spring
and spring that runs into the summer
games that start in the morning
but won't end until the night

This is what we wait for
this is what we live for
My cleats are ready and my bag is packed
who's ready to play?

Zaryn Jennings
Former DC SCORES Intern

April 14
Seeing/Being You
It’s been said
You don’t get a second chance
To make a first impression.

And in that first impression,
Others create an opinion of you.

Sometimes you get a chance
To make a second impression
And in doing so do you confirm that opinion?
Or change it?
Or give more context to put a different spin on it?

Do you carefully choose your words
Your gestures, your appearance
To influence how others view you?

If you do,
Then how do you
Stay true to you?

Do you?

Can you?

Daniel Meloy
Senior Director of Development & Communications

April 13
An Ode to the Song Stuck in my Head
i’m humming to a melody, unheard
while lyrics, bounce between
my trains of thought,
pounding to get out,
but the song remains
this sticky tune. This earworm.
Those bothersome
guitar riffs and drum solos fill
empty space in my head,
space I’m sure was designed for math.
or state capitals.
Or proper English grammar.
but now act as glue traps
for songs, itching for a chance
to be heard, played aloud
but scrubbing my brain
with the verses and chorus
only allow the stain of this music to lock in.
these vocals and bass lines have
taken up residence in my brain
when all I want is some quiet headspace.
or at least a new song.

Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

April 10
Two soccer haiku
Spring season’s forecast:
Winning each play; digging deep;
Teammates slapping palms

Messy goal slips in
Crushed, girls scramble - lose by one
Kindness builds true teams

Jessica Trevelyan
Grants Manager

April 9
Masters Week starts Spring
Azaleas in full bloom
Golf Augusta Peace

Barton Bishop
DC SCORES Board Member

April 8
Goalie Jersey on, cleats tied, shin guards tight,
I’m ready.
Between the posts, I mark my spot,
I create a wall of stone.
As the wind howls, the whistle blows,
The ball is kicked.
I am the last line of defense,
My goal is to stop yours.
Diving, jumping, reaching for the ball,
Only the wind moves the net.
A shot is made,
A moment of silence occurs.
My job stays the same,
I am the defender of the net.
And with every goal I save, I rule the world.

Liselot Koenen

April 7
Soccer Ball 
Sphere of black and white
Kids within a team unite
Smiles and laughs so bright

Kelly Dragelin
DC SCORES Board Member

April 6
Dear Exceptional
Just in case your mother forgot to tell you,
You're special.
And even if your father isn't around to remind you,
you’re beautiful.
You are exceptional enough to defy all stereotypes and to contradict all statistics
You are exceptional enough to devise creations that can’t be duplicated.
They only tell you you’re stupid because they see a light within you, they can’t comprehend
And they only pump negative images into your head to block your exceptional vision.
You see, you have a fire inside of you that only offends those reluctant to be different.
They know and you know that you operate from a platform where your potential is limitless.
So keep your focus and your vision, and your strength will lead you down a path where opportunities are endless.
Now don’t get it twisted, you’ll land in some valleys difficult for you to climb out of but they’ll prove to make your peaks more rewarding.
And you’ll run into some roadblocks and obstacles but you have what it takes to get around it.
And if those roadblocks are too wide, and those valleys too deep, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
Because you’re way too exceptional to let anything stop you from fulfilling your purpose.

Kavon Ward
The Poet Activist, and former DC SCORES coach
United Speech Nation LLC 

April 3
oh March fickle thing
sun shining wind blasting cold
longing for warm nights

Lyndsey Miller-Vierra
Senior Director of Operations

April 2
Better than any NCAA bracket
Want real March Madness?
Look no further than a field
On spring's first game day

Libby Watkins
Program Coordinator -- Monitoring & Evaluation 

April 1
This is TLC
Teamwork defines us
Leadership embodies me
Commitment to team!

Carlos Fonseca 
Program Manager -- Soccer Operations

Monday, March 30, 2015

Creating change at Truesdell EC, Part I: Identifying the community's biggest need

During the DC SCORES spring season, each of our 44 teams go through a four-step service-learning process that involves A) Identifying problems that need addressing in their community; B) Researching one issue; C) Implementing a project to make a difference in the community; and D) Reflecting on the impact they made.

This spring, DC SCORES intern Kristen Miano is following the Truesdell Education Campus (elementary school) Trojans as they go through the service-learning process. Read below and watch each week’s video to learn how DC SCORES empowers youth to create change around them.


Written by Kristen Miano
Digital Media Intern

Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The Truesdell Trojans may be small, but indeed, they are committed. As a part of the spring season with DC SCORES, the students have come together to work on a service-learning project that will better their community.

“Our students get this huge confidence boost seeing that they came up with an idea, and it happened, that they did it and helped other people,” said writing coach Emily Adams, who is guiding the students through the 12-week service-learning process.

The first part of the process is identifying an issue in the community to focus on. After two weeks together, the Trojans are close to choosing their project.

Class last Wednesday kicked off with an anonymous vote. The students voted on a variety of choices, including a project involving homelessness, a plan for a community garden, and a petition to work on the nutrition available at their school.

The votes are being tallied and the results will be announced this week.

In the meantime, the Trojans settled in to learn about the importance of staying committed to the project they will eventually work on. The team divided into groups to read a poem describing a situation in which people who promised to work on a project never quite followed through. The groups were asked to write about what they learned or thought was important about the poem to share with the rest of the class.

“The poem said we should always do our work and not wait for someone else to do it,” said Blessing T.

Overall, the class felt the poem was telling them to work hard, stay on target, and never give up -- helpful messages to remember for when they officially begin work on changing their community!

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.