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Monday, March 18, 2013

On first day of DC SCORES program, a palpable excitement in the air

Lincoln Middle School students are anxious to start playing soccer.

“Are we going to the field yet?” Larry asks his coach, Popsie, as he goes in for a high five.

The coach is welcoming everyone back and into the classroom. “Service-learning first,” he replies. “Don’t worry, we’ll get out there.”

It’s the first day of the DC SCORES spring season and though there’s paperwork to finish, attendance sheets to sign, and other logistics to sort out, there’s a sense of real excitement among the Lincoln students. Teammates say hello to one another after a winter apart. Many in the room have a long history participating in DC SCORES, but several kids are returning from a season away or have transferred to Lincoln from other DCPS middle schools.

It’s a fresh start for the Lincoln team.

Coaches Popsie and Libby start the session by encouraging everyone to brainstorm potential topics for a service project. Last year, the kids at Lincoln developed a program that combated teen pregnancy; the year before that, they cleaned up the Anacostia River.

Everyone has plenty of ideas for the upcoming season. From cyber bullying and violence prevention; to raising awareness about shoplifting and underage drinking; to recycling and litter clean-up, the Lincoln poet-athletes are thinking hard about what it takes to engage in and improve their community. Their coaches reinforce this idea.

“What do you see every day in your community?” Popsie asks. “What do you want to change?”

Coach Libby adds, “Maybe you don’t think you can solve it, but if we work together, take small steps, we can.”

The Lincoln team develops a strong list of potential service projects, and gets ready to head over to the soccer field for the first practice of the season. Aaron’s been playing with DC SCORES since second grade, but wasn’t able to participate during the fall season.

“I want to get back in the game,” he says, adding that defense is what he looks forward to the most.

This is Ment’s second season, and he’s just glad that Popsie is his coach. “Popsie’s really cool, yeah, I like DC SCORES and playing and stuff,” he says.

Coach Popsie, for his part, is also excited to be back for the spring.

“You can’t walk away from it,” he says of his four-year tenure coaching for DC SCORES. “I’m a member of this community … these kids are so eager to learn.”

That much is obvious. As the Lincoln team travels through the streets of Columbia Heights to the practice field, carrying their backpacks and bouncing soccer balls, Larry turns to call out to his friends and coaches behind him.

“Come on guys! Let’s go!”

It’s a new season: new teammates, new challenges, and new opportunities to score lots of goals — both on and off the soccer field.

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