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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Ben Keller, soccer referee and D.C. United photographer

Each month, DC SCORES highlights a volunteer that has made a significant impact on the program. It would be impossible to give over 1,450 students throughout the District the quality programming they receive without the help of our volunteers. To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.DCSCORES.org.


DCS: Are you currently employed or a student? If so, where?

BK: I photograph part time with D.C. United, and I am starting own business. It’s a sedan/ limo business. I will be starting when I get by license. It will probably come through (very soon).

DCS: That’s great! How did you decide on that?

BK: I’ve been unemployed since graduating in May, and I haven’t had anything to do. Someone suggested to me to become a driver. A family friend of mine is in the business and they told me to learn from someone first, but I have too many student loans to do that. Being a driver provides flexibility. You can be your own boss, set your own schedule.

DCS: How long have you been volunteering with DC SCORES?

BK: Between two and two and a half years.

DCS: How did you get involved with DC SCORES?

BK: I have my United States Soccer Federation (USSF) refereeing certificate, so I am a grade 8 referee. This means that I can do tournaments and soccer games up to U-18. A good friend of mine, Charles Carson, also volunteers with DC SCORES. He is almost an MLS referee – probably next year. Charles is my referee mentor and he told me about DC SCORES. This was when I was at Corcoran school of Art and Design, so I had some free time. I wanted to volunteer and do some good. It’s all Charles’ fault.

DCS: What do you find most interesting about DC SCORES?

BK: When Ben Olsen (head coach for D.C. United) was accepting his award from DC SCORES, he talked about how he had been confounded by the mix of soccer and poetry. He didn’t understand how the two were combined until he attended the Poetry Slam! and saw how the soccer and poetry complemented each other. Ben said it best. I was there when he accepted that award.

DCS: What has kept you involved?

BK: I was born in Takoma Park, but my mom is Canadian. I was raised in Toronto but came back in middle school. I love the District. I love this area, but this area has a lot of problems and I want to help fix those problems. I know it’s not a lot but it’s what I do. I love soccer, honestly. I only discovered it in 2008.

Not having an opportunity as a child to play a sport, I wanted to recapture that. All these kids getting out there to play is what it’s all about. One time I was refereeing a DC SCORES game, during halftime I mentioned to a DC SCORES staff member that the kids weren’t really getting it. The staff informed me that this was their first game ever, that I was at a new DC SCORES school and this was the first time many of these kids had ever played in a game. That was great for me to see. They are out there breathing the fresh air. That’s what keeps me going.

DCS: Describe your most enjoyable experience volunteering for DC SCORES.

BK: The video at the Get in the Game breakfast told the story of a boy who had recently moved to the United States. … This is an organization that can do that for a kid, it can give him an opportunity, an outlet. No one has a crystal ball, but some kids are predisposed to something because of where or how they grew up. But that one kid is doing so well for himself because of soccer.

DCS: What do you like to do with your free time?

BK: The regular. Movies and film. Being a photojournalist, I look at them in a different way, a different light, dissect them a little more. I play soccer, I shoot the game, I study the game, I used to watch 10 to 12 hours of soccer a weekend. England, Germany, Spain, Italy, mostly Premier League and D.C. United. I was a soccer sponge.

DCS: Who is your favorite athlete?

BK: Ben Olsen, head coach of D.C. United. Well, I love my team very much and so does he. He has a heart of a lion. He grew up in PA but he played with D.C. United and didn’t ever leave. He’s just a really awesome guy in general. He is an artist, a painter, I really admire that. He is a great leader. He turns a career of great soccer into 4 MLS championships. As a veteran player, he was amazing and transformed that into a head coach role.

DCS: Who is your favorite singer or poet?

BK: Ed Sheeran, who is more folksy — it’s new folk. His lyrics are very poetic; he uses guitar and also uses a loop pedal. He puts them both to good creative use.

DCS: What is your favorite food?

BK: Mom’s baked ziti.

DCS: Anything else you want to share?

BK: I just really love soccer, and like doing really, really great things for people. An organization like DC SCORES that really makes it happen and puts it all together is phenomenal in my mind and that is why I love DC SCORES. And that’s the final word.

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