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Monday, May 21, 2012

DC SCORES students' visit to White House includes photos with Michelle Obama, Q&A with L.A. Galaxy

Last Tuesday, coach Shannon Nelson and her team of Brightwood poet-athletes got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A trip to the White House.

This was far from an ordinary tour of the President’s residence. The students sat in the same room as Barack Obama. They posed for pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama. And they asked questions of two of the world’s most famous and accomplished soccer players.

All in an afternoon.

The 22 Brightwood students joined students from America SCORES affiliates in Denver and St. Louis as well as children from the District, Houston and Miami who participate in the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program (DC SCORES will begin implementing Soccer for Success in a group of schools next fall) and United for D.C. participants.

Oh, and they were accompanied by the L.A. Galaxy, who were in town to be honored by the president for winning the 2011 Major League Soccer (MLS) title.

The afternoon began with a presentation by Obama to the Galaxy. The students sat in the room, just rows of folding chairs from the President of the United States as he spoke about David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the team’s exploits.

Minutes later, the president had other matters to attend to -- imagine that! -- but the students’ afternoon at the White House was far from over. They were escorted to a side room for a special photo shoot.

Now getting your picture taken inside the White House is pretty cool to begin with, but it holds a little more cache -- OK, a lot -- when it’s taken with the First Lady. That’s right -- Michelle Obama, who is the face and leader of the Let’s Move initiative to curb the unsettling childhood obesity trend, chatted with students and posed for pictures.

The students’ beaming faces said it all -- they couldn’t believe what they were doing. Awe is the best word to describe it.

If they were in awe at that moment, just minutes later they were in heaven. Brightwood’s poet-athletes are extremely passionate about soccer. There’s a reason they’re playing in both elementary school semifinal games this week. They LOVE to practice and play.

Thus, the chance to ask the likes of Donovan, Beckham and other Galaxy players questions about their soccer careers had them almost in a tizzy. After they listened to the First Lady talk about the importance of living healthy lifestyles with the final message of “Eat your vegetables!,” she opened up the floor to the young soccer players to ask their idols some questions.

The inquiries ran the gamut. From the serious ...

“Is it hard to play soccer and be a professional?”

“What inspired you to play soccer?”

“Do you inspire kids to be the best?”

To the inquisitive…

“I’m a Madrid fan,” stated a young boy. “Why did you move from Madrid?”

“Is it any kind of food you like to eat before the game?”

And, from a St. Louis poet-athlete to Beckham: “What did it take for you to become the man you are today?”

The professionals enjoyed the 30-minute back-and-forth and gave great advice to the young players, including Donovan talking about the importance of knowing the foods you’re putting in your body and the effect they will have on your athletic performance.

When the session was over -- and the students had all received autographs from the soccer stars -- so too was an action-packed, celebrity-filled day at the White House for Brightwood’s poet-athletes and their new friends from Denver and St. Louis.

And while they’ll likely be trying to bend it like Beckham for days, they also took several lessons from their visit.

From the First Lady’s message about “learning to lose,” to Donovan’s words about learning to take care of themselves, the students won’t soon forget their memorable day and the words their heroes bestowed upon them.

See video from the poet-athletes’ Q&A session with the L.A. Galaxy.

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