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Friday, November 13, 2009

DC SCORES gives students skills -- and the power of leadership

Two summers ago, I worked alongside inner-city Boston high school students who wanted to be agents of change in their community.

In the Youth Force department of Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation (DBEDC) young adults spend their summer days developing into community organizing leaders. Through petitions, demonstrations, meetings with elected officials and community forums, teens learn the ins and outs of community organizing and demonstrate how powerful their voices are.

By the end of August, not only were these youth accomplished leaders, but their efforts to create positive change for their families and friends yielded tangible results.

Now while the Youth Force aims are important — to stop gang violence, end racism, help the environment, and more — the means to achieve these ends are just as crucial. It was not enough for the teens to simply get more involved in community affairs.

Participation is a step, but not the final one.

Their community needed leaders, a group of dedicated individuals to take the initiative — to inspire others to support their cause. Of course, their success is measured by the battles won and lost, but to me, this often overshadowed the maturation process involved in training to become community-organizing leaders.

The teens acquired a leadership toolkit they could use after their high school years.

DC SCORES shares this same philosophy. In our eyes, DC SCORES participants have the chance to become more than just “talented writers” or “skilled soccer players.”

Of course, after attending the poetry and soccer after-school programming, chances are students will excel in these areas in the future. But more importantly, they can aspire to be agents of change in their communities.

For instance, this year’s DC SCORES theme is Leadership, and coaches focus their lessons around this idea, encouraging students to find opportunities to gain more responsibility and ownership on their teams. Coaches incorporate activities that build leadership skills, such as teamwork exercises and student-led games. Students even have the chance to win a free bicycle by displaying positive leadership qualities throughout the fall season.

In these ways and many others, DC SCORES students have fun learning new skills and attaining valuable leadership ability.

Before becoming fully aware of proper table manners, it is common for young children to eat meals with their hands. Often parents scold their children and ask them, “What’s the point of a fork if it just sits next to your plate?”

Many children’s programs can boast that their students gain command over particular subject areas — and we must commend these programs and the kids they serve for their accomplishments. But how does simply learning new skills translate into improving the world?

DC SCORES gives students the opportunity to gain various skills in the classroom and on the soccer field, and simultaneously helps them develop into leaders in their community.

Each DC SCORES student possesses a fork — this leadership capability. What separates them from the rest of the pack is that they use their forks to be agents of change.  

-- Written by Zach Elkin, Elementary School Program Coordinator

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