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Monday, February 6, 2012

AmeriCorps members bring diverse perspectives, passion for activism to DC SCORES schools

Written by Zach Elkin
AmeriCorps Program Manager

A week before the DC SCORES fall season began, some new faces gathered in the conference room at the M Street office. As introductions commenced, the group’s diversity was evident: undergraduate students, recent college graduates, working professionals; D.C. natives and those new to the area; Caucasian, Black, Latino; athletes, writers and community activists.

It wasn’t long before casual conversations broke out, and members of the group discovered they were all there for the same reason. By the end of the week, they would be welcomed into the DC SCORES family as the inaugural cohort of AmeriCorps coaches.

Their year of volunteerism with DC SCORES signaled a common mission that linked those sitting at the table: a commitment to public service and the emotional, academic, and physical development of D.C. youth.

Every afternoon that week, the AmeriCorps coaches were given organizational and programmatic breakdowns from the DC SCORES staff, shared personal perspectives on the state of public education in the city and nationwide, and examined the concepts of Teamwork, Leadership and Commitment in relation to effective coaching strategies.

Throughout, the AmeriCorps group began to develop their own sense of community by learning about each other’s histories and participating in team-building exercises.

After completing nearly 10 hours of pre-service training, members were given school assignments that would soon be their destinations every afternoon. The invigorated group was excited (while a little nervous!) to meet their co-coaches and begin working with their respective teams the following week.

From the first fall practices through the culminating Poetry Slam! performances, AmeriCorps coaches made a tremendous impact on the DC SCORES program. Besides their outstanding coaching efforts, the AmeriCorps coaches helped manage the logistical components at their schools (e.g student registration and attendance), facilitated written and physical evaluations, and helped DC SCORES staff with other program-related projects.

At the same time, AmeriCorps members participated in bi-weekly trainings such as a referee workshop, CPR certification class and youth development training; and many attended weekly panel events and workshops related to education and youth development at various organizations around the city.

This winter, AmeriCorps coaches are taking the lead to implement a scaled-back program at four schools and teaching students how to make healthy snacks and stay physically active during the winter months.

After the winter season wraps up in early March, AmeriCorps members will have a short break before they re-join their fall team of coaches to kick off the spring season. DC SCORES is fortunate to have such an amazing cast of AmeriCorps coaches and is looking forward to all of their hard work in the future!

Learn a little more about the AmeriCorps coaches below:

Rachel Mason — Bancroft ES
From Fairfax, VA, Rachel’s passion about youth work and desire to gain more professional experience in the field of education attracted her to DC SCORES. In her time away from Bancroft, Rachel is working to complete her Master’s Thesis in Social Justice, and she loves to run, practice yoga, journal and write poetry.

Shakeria Reed — Noyes EC
Shakeria joined DC SCORES after graduating from Salisbury University in the spring of 2011. Born and raised in the District, Shakeria was intrigued by the DC SCORES philosophy and decided to take a break from her education to join AmeriCorps. Her most memorable part of the fall season was her team’s second-place finish at the Eastside Poetry Slam!. In her free time, Shakeria works as a hostess at a restaurant in Maryland.

Terrell Clifford — Garfield ES
Terrell, from Bowie, MD, joined DC SCORES for the opportunity to affect change in his local community and impact the lives of youth. Terrell had great success creating the DC SCORES program at Garfield in the fall, and vividly remembers when his poet-athletes scored their first goal in the second game of the season! Outside of DC SCORES, Terrell enjoys traveling and is preparing to attend graduate school in the fall.

Eric Toldi — Thomson ES
Eric, born and raised in the Bay Area of California, was eager to work with elementary school students and liked the variety of DC SCORES curricula. His proudest moment was watching his team practice their poetry to perfection. Outside of DC SCORES, Eric interns for an aerospace manufacturing nonprofit and likes to exercise and cook.

Gerardo Benavides — Raymond EC
Gerardo came to DC SCORES by way of Silver Spring, MD, and currently studies Sociology and Global Poverty at the University of Maryland. Gerardo was attracted to the joint initiative of poetry and soccer to advocate for healthier lifestyles for youth, and was so proud of his Raymond team for going undefeated in the fall. Besides coaching, Gerardo is heavily involved in UMD’s service-learning organizations such as Terps for Change and Alternative Breaks.

Will Marshall — Lincoln MS
Will came to DC SCORES in September hoping to build experience working with inner-city youth and pursue his passion for education. Born in St. Louis, MO, Will wanted the opportunity to serve with AmeriCorps, and did a fantastic job coaching poetry and soccer to the sixth and seventh grade Lincoln boys in the fall. Outside of DC SCORES, Will is an avid writer and adult rugby coach.

Sheldon Biggs — MacFarland MS
From the District, Sheldon was excited about the chance to work with youth and make a difference in their lives, and was thrilled to learn that the AmeriCorps program offered an Education Award! Sheldon’s most memorable moment from the fall season was the Westside Poetry Slam!. When he’s not at MacFarland, Sheldon is working toward a degree in Finance from the University of the District of Columbia

Jazeeda Pelzer — Truesdell EC
Jazeeda was attracted to the poetry and creative expression aspect of DC SCORES and joined halfway through the fall season to help prepare the Truesdell students for the annual Poetry Slam!. Born and raised in the District, Jazeeda studies Mass Media Communications at the University of the District of Columbia and is an active member in the community.

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