Written by Shakeria Reed
Poetry & Service-Learning Program Coordinator
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 13th Annual Lights on Afterschool, sponsored locally by the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) and throughout the country by the Afterschool Alliance. Lights on Afterschool is a celebration of after-school programs, like DC SCORES, which help keep youth engaged after the school bell rings for dismissal.
DCAYA Executive Director Maggie Riden gave a great introduction, explaining the importance of after-school programs and how the time between dismissal and 6pm is a critical time for youth who otherwise might choose to engage in activities non-beneficial to their development.
The keynote speaker was Nadia Jenkins, Mind Brain Health Education Practitioner and Social Activist as well as the wife of celebrity trainer Mark Jenkins. Her speech clearly laid out to the youth in attendance the benefits of healthy living; the importance of being the best YOU can be; and how to enjoy life while you’re young. Jenkins explained the benefits of after-school programs and engaging in the arts as a means of physical fitness and self-expression.
Then DC SCORES alum Jarmar L. took the stage to exemplify exactly what Jenkins referred to.
Jarmar, a former DC SCORES soccer player and poet at Tubman Elementary and then Lincoln Middle, now attends Bell Multicultural High School and volunteers with DC SCORES as an assistant coach at Lincoln and a referee at the Tubman field on game days.
Before beginning his poem, Jarmar engaged the crowd by asking, “Who has ever been afraid to speak up?”
The majority of hands in the room shot up.
“How many people have been picked on for being smart?”
Once again, the most of the audience raised their hands.
Jarmar then jumped into his poem, which encouraged kids not to be afraid to be themselves and display their smarts. He spoke about how cool it is to be a nerd and to be proud of yourself.
What followed was an array of performances highlighting the many gifts and talents of DC youth! The Wilson High School dance team performed a mash-up of Latin American dances, which included the Merengue and Bachata. Many of the kids in the dance troupe were DC SCORES alumni still displaying their artistic sides just like they used to do through poetry.
Lights on Afterschool was not just a display of after-school programs in the city, but a showcase of the many, many talents of DC youth. It was a reminder of just how many fantastic programs there are in DC doing incredibly important work to keep youth positively and creatively engaged each weekday afternoon.