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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

18 years later, Arts-Athletics-Academics model as strong as ever for DC SCORES

Last week marked the completion of the 18th fall season of DC SCORES programming. 

Hard to believe, right? 

Was it really that long ago that Julie Kennedy, a teacher at Marie Reed, introduced the game of soccer and then -- on a rainy day -- the art of poetry to her students?

The program, of course, began with that one group of youth and quickly grew. In 1999, it led to the birth of America SCORES, which now has 14 affiliates throughout the U.S. from Boston and Atlanta to Seattle and L.A.

And to this day, the Arts-Athletics-Academics model -- as simple as it sounds -- makes an indelible impact on the lives of thousands of youth. If ever there was a lack of interest in our program or the necessity of what we provide waned, we might have to change.

Instead, we grow -- serving over 1,450 youth at 42 schools -- and continue to strive to serve any youth in the District who wants to be on a team.

Just last week, we saw how important that is to our students. At our 15th Annual Poetry Slam! on Wednesday and Thursday, teams of students showed incredible pride in their schools and communities through self-expression. 

One of the dozens of impressive and courageous performances came from a Wheatley Education Campus student who, with his teammates at his side and his lips quivering, read a touching and powerful poem about his father's infidelity. 

Without DC SCORES, those feelings likely would have remained inside him.

The official soccer games season concluded with the Capital Cup championship games on Nov. 20, but last week demonstrated the importance to youth of having an outlet through which to play. On Friday, the last day of the DC SCORES season, Sacred Heart Bilingual School traveled to MacFarland Middle School to play the Crusaders in a make-up game.

The game had no meaning in the standings. A win wouldn't lead to another game. Yet the kids showed up excited for the chance to play a real game with a referee against another school. It was a big deal to them -- and an opportunity they only get through DC SCORES.

Hearing about Friday's experience reminded me of a DC SCORES game day from earlier in the season involving Perry Street Prep and Wheatley. In a rare mishap, we didn't have goals at Wheatley that afternoon. I thought the students might be disappointed. 

Instead, they barely noticed the large orange cones the coaches and I set up. There was an infectious enthusiasm on the field that afternoon, a joy derived from the basic opportunity to run up and down a field kicking and passing a soccer ball. 

That, to me, demonstrated what DC SCORES -- and our affiliates nationwide -- means to the students involved. They don't care about manicured fields. Just give them a ball, teammates to pass to, and some green space, and they'll have a great time and improve their physical fitness in doing so.

Give them a $1 composition book and a pen, and they'll feel the freedom to write down their innermost feelings. Then give them a stage on which to express what they've penned and a microphone, and they'll feel empowered.

Eighteen years since this program started, it's amazing to see how effective the SCORES model still is and the impact it has on thousands of youth.

We can't wait for next season!

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