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Thursday, December 29, 2011

11 stories that defined DC SCORES in 2011

Before we switch the focus to what should be an extremely exciting year of continued growth for DC SCORES in 2012, it never hurts to take a look back and realize the progress we've made in the last 12 months.

Over the past 365 days, DC SCORES has grown from serving about 750 District elementary and middle school students at 24 schools to serving over 800 at 27 schools.

We have added an organized program for alumni of the program, fit with serving positions including an alumni president.

And we have embarked on a five-year growth plan designed to double the size of DC SCORES as we strive to provide our after-school model for every student in the District deserving of the opportunity to be on a team representing their school and community.

Yes, it's been a busy year of looking ahead and planning for the future.

However, the quality of programming we provide on a daily basis in classrooms throughout the District has never waned, which is something we're most proud of. The teachers, or "SCORES Corps," at each school deserve the most praise for this. They make the program work, season in and season out.

With that said, here are 11 stories — pulled from the annals of this blog — that helped define DC SCORES in 2011:
It was not just another day at school for Luis A. of Tubman Elementary School in mid-December 2010. As Luis prepared for school, he could barely contain himself, knowing whom he was about to meet. Hours later, Luis stood by President Obama's side as the President signed the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010. "Everybody has a chance to live and everybody has a chance to do what they want to do," Luis said of the message he took from his special day.

Last February, eight DC SCORES alumni representing rival high schools Bell and Wilson came together as one to represent DC SCORES in the St. Albans School Futsal tournament. They had never all played together, but after an opening loss, the boys bonded and didn't lose again, taking home the championship trophy. Their title run demonstrated the power of teamwork.

Last year, long-time DC SCORES soccer coach Chiara Lee, who leads the girls team at Burrville Elementary School, was honored for her outstanding work both inside and outside of the classroom by Washington's NBA team with the Wizards Care Community Assist Award. Lee, one of our longest-tenured coaches, also answered some questions about her DC SCORES experience.

Last April, no stage was too big for a pair of DC SCORES poet-athletes, as Dallas O. (Arts and Technology Academy) and Akilae S. (Tubman Elementary School) shined at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM!, held at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. "I was nervous when we were waiting on the side of the stage," Akilae said. "On stage, though, I felt excited and prepared."

The weather was dismal, and that's an understatement. Rain pounded the field outside Tubman Elementary School. The temperature dipped into the low 40s. It was freezing. And yet close to 100 DC SCORES alumni braved the conditions on a day off from school to participate in the first alumni soccer tournament. The event displayed just how eager former participants were to remain involved with our program.

For the second consecutive year, students stole the show — and the spotlight — at DC SCORES' premier spring fundraising event. After guests enjoyed DC SCORES-themed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and bid on 45 pieces of artwork inspired by students' poetry and created by local professionals, guests funneled into the auditorium for performances by poet-athletes. They were so impressed that afterward, students were autographing people's programs well into the night.

Each spring DC SCORES teams at each school put together an original service-learning project to address an issue that's plagued their school and/or community. Last spring was no different, and we visited Cesar Chavez-Parkside Middle School to find out about the music video the students put together to address the depression they had noticed among classmates. "I'm very excited just for the chance to help other kids who go through this," said eighth-grader Imani J. "It means a lot to me."

Standing under the sun's hot rays, which baked the field turf outside Tubman Elementary School, Emily C. was asked if she ever considered not attending DC SCORES summer camp. "No," said Emily, now a fifth-grader at Tubman. "I never have second thoughts when it comes to summer camp." Such was the case for about 200 students last summer, who attended DC SCORES' three free summer camps, two of them entirely outdoors spent playing soccer, despite temperatures close to 100 degrees. The consistent attendance of students like Emily demonstrated the importance of the camps to children in neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights.

While regular programming ticked on this past fall, DC SCORES — with funding from DC Stoddert Soccer and the District's Department of Parks and Recreation — introduced a novel concept in the District's wards where soccer instruction has traditionally been nonexistent. Beginning in October and spurred by Athletic Director Kenny Owens and Soccer Specialist Keith Tucker, Saturday SCORES clinics were offered, free of charge, to any interested kids in wards 5, 6, 7 and 8. They were a hit, especially in Ward 7, and will continue this spring.

In the summer, DC SCORES Executive Director Amy Nakamoto had been named by The Century Council — as part of its 20th anniversary — as one of 20 youth development leaders nationwide "who have committed their careers and lives to our country's youth..." Then in November, Nakamoto — and, as a reflection of her work, DC SCORES — received just as large of an honor when she was one of three nonprofit leaders  in DC named a winner of the Meyer Foundation's Exponent Award. "Despite the economy, each of these leaders has exhibited creativity and perseverance in expanding the reach of their organization's work," said Meyer Foundation President and CEO Julie Rodgers.

While there were many other stories that made this past season incredible, it's impossible not to include mention of the culminating event of each fall season. On consecutive nights, the 14th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam! took over the stages of Columbia Heights Education Campus and the brand-new H.D. Woodson High School, as 27 teams expressed themselves creatively and through music in front of their peers, families, community members and DC SCORES supporters. Relive the amazing displays of self-expression on this very blog: Night 1; Night 2

Happy (early) New Year and cheers to an even more sensational and groundbreaking 2012! And please help us reach our goal of $20,000 for our end-of-year fundraising drive! (donations pre-1.1.2012 are tax-deductible in 2011).

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