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Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting to know DC SCORES' National Poetry SLAM! contestants

On Monday night at the New York Stock Exchange, Jasia S. and James P. will get an incredible opportunity – the chance to perform poetry on stage at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM!

The SLAM! will cap off a busy weekend in New York for the DC SCORES poet-athletes, who were chosen to participate in the event because of their outstanding work both in the classroom and on the soccer field during programming this school year.

In advance of James and Jasia’s grand appearance under the bright lights – where they’ll compete against poet-athletes from the 12 other SCORES sites – it is only appropriate that we get to know the pair of students a little better. After all, they’re carrying the torch for the 700 District students we serve.

James, 11, is a sixth grader at Raymond Elementary School. He’s been in DC SCORES for three years, all at Raymond, and is known by coaches and teammates as an outstanding leader in the classroom and on the field who has matured throughout his time with the program.

“I love poetry because it gives you a way to express yourself in a beautiful, calm, peaceful way,” James says.

Jasia, 9, is a fourth grader at Burrville Elementary School who has become a leader during her second year with DC SCORES. At the Eastside Poetry Slam! in December, she won the Shine Award for best individual performance after reciting her inspiring “Let’s All Save the World Together” poem about protecting the environment. She also helped Burrville finish tied for second at the Slam!

“It expresses feelings,” Jasia says of poetry. “It sends messages and is fun to compete with.”

James and Jasia believe poetry is a tool for creating change, for sending strong messages about issues in their neighborhoods.

In New York, James will perform a poem about creating peace and ending community violence – a work inspired by the community in which he lives in an effort to positively affect it.

Jasia will perform the same poem that won her the Shine Award, her rousing ode to the environment. The work rose out of her tremendous love for the outdoors, where she spends all her free time immersed in nature.

“I like nature and animals, and the fresh air, trees and plants,” Jasia says. “I’m very serious about helping the earth.”

While both students love poetry, it’s just a small part of what makes them such motivated young leaders. This is indicated by James’ favorite memory – when he made two great saves as the goalie for Raymond in a SCORES game to secure a victory for his team. James also enjoys football, basketball and hockey.

James has a lot of fun playing goalie, but he gets the most fulfillment from watching others succeed and interacting with students from the schools Raymond competes against. He relishes meeting and befriending younger students so he can “act as a leader” and “tell them it’s OK when they make mistakes.”

Not surprisingly, James’ motto is “make friends, not enemies.”

Jasia is an extremely driven and motivated fourth grader. In addition to poetry, she enjoys singing, cheerleading, sports and all school subjects. She gets plenty of encouragement from her large, supportive family of seven, and she, in turn, constantly helps others “be sharing, helping, kind and thoughtful.”

Don’t underestimate what the National Poetry SLAM! means to both students. Sure, any free trip to New York is pretty cool. They’ll get to play soccer in Central Park, enjoy a VIP dinner at a restaurant on the southern tip of Manhattan, and participate in a bell-ringing ceremony at the NYSE – among other touristy activities. But performing well and representing themselves, their schools, and communities are especially important to James and Jasia.

Which might explain why in the weeks leading up to this event, Jasia was running around school clutching her poems like they were her most valuable possessions.  

On Monday night, she and James will get the opportunity to take the stage and show off the works that their inspirations and hard work created. It certainly will be a special occasion.


  1. A humble expression of tremendous gratitude for all those who have provided support to our students in DC SCORES. Good luck tonight to both James and Jasia!

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