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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SCORE Awards highlight outstanding coaches, volunteers who make program possible

"The people who actually make the program are why we're here tonight."

Those words, spoken by DC SCORES Executive Director Amy Nakamoto, could not have better captured what the SCORE Awards were about.

On Tuesday, April 7, more than 100 guests including Councilmember David Grosso and D.C. United coach Ben Olsen came to Long View Gallery to celebrate coaches and volunteers who spend their after-school hours in the classroom and on the soccer field molding the lives of over 1,450 low-income DC youth.

The event was a fundraiser, but most importantly gave donors and supporters a chance to meet and see those who run the soccer practices and writing sessions every day during the spring and fall. The SCORE Awards was made possible by sponsors CIT Group, Inc., DirecTV, EVOKE, Photogroup Inc., Volkswagen Group of America and Walmart.

After an hour of drinks and h'orderves in the spacious gallery, during which guests met the dozens of coaches and viewed a slideshow highlighting DC SCORES, everyone gathered in the main room for the awards ceremony.

First, Nakamoto presented the Kennedy Awards for Coaching Commitment -- aptly named after the founder of DC SCORES in 1994, Julie Kennedy -- to soccer coaches John Guzman of Bancroft Elementary School and Leticia Lacomba of Marie Reed Elementary School. Both coaches have been with us for many years and have made an indelible impact on hundreds of youth.

Then former DC SCORES staff member Mingo Roberts took the stage to present the Mingo Roberts Coaching Excellence Award. Before giving out the plaque, Roberts talked about how his experience with the organization from 1999-2003 represented the most impactful job he's ever had. Then Roberts called Demetria Clark of Davis Elementary School.

Demetria Clark (left) with Mingo Roberts & Amy Nakamoto.
"I'm definitely shocked," Clark said afterward, sitting with her trophy and fellow Davis coach Ryan Paull. "DC SCORES is the best organization I've ever worked for, and it trickles down from the top to the bottom."

In just her first year coaching, Clark has made an incredible impact on the students at Davis. She instilled in them a sense of teamwork ("The just work so well together now," she said) that led to a tremendous debut performance at the Poetry Slam! in November and ever-improving results on the soccer field.

Becoming a DC SCORES coach was "probably one of the best decisions I've ever made," Clark said.

Before the final awards, the event wouldn't have been complete without a pair of performances by the students -- a chance for the guests to see the confidence and ability instilled in youth by coaches such as Clark, Guzman and Lacomba.

Kastenny C., a third-grader at Marie Reed Elementary School, took the stage to perform her hit poem "A Diamond." Kastenny had performed the poem on several big stages before -- she won the Shine Award at the Poetry Slam!; she was on NBC in January; and she recently was one of two students who performed at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! in New York -- and she delivered it with just as much passion and pride this time around.

DeAndre W., a fifth-grader at Perry Street Prep, also is a veteran star poet. He's performed solo poems at the Poetry Slam! and on NBC, and last year attended the big SLAM! in the Big Apple. But on Wednesday, he performed a new poem, "Black," for the first time at a DC SCORES event and wowed guests with his delivery and inspiration.

Afterward, DeAndre said he loves poetry "because it lets me inspire myself without getting angry or making assumptions." His mother, Malika Walters, echoed his words and talked about how writing and performing poetry -- while instilled by DC SCORES -- are talents DeAndre will use for years to come on many more big stages.

Then it was back to honoring difference-making coaches. Nakamoto presented the Teamwork Awards for schools' coaches who have run an outstanding overall soccer/poetry/service-learning program to Davis and Seaton Elementary -- two schools new to DC SCORES this past fall. The award was a testament to how dedicated and cohesive the "SCORE Corps," or coaches, at each school have been.

DC SCORES hires four coaches -- two soccer and two writing -- at each of our 42 schools, and at no schools did the coaches work better together to build teams and achieve results in the classroom and on the field than at Davis and Seaton.

The final award presented was the Chris Richardson Community Service Award, named after the long-time volunteer referee who has also helped DC SCORES in many other capacities. Richardson talked about how the basic website description of refereeing an elementary school soccer game for kids who without the program wouldn't have a team doesn't do the experience justice.

"At the end of the game," Richardson said, "you will have seen joy and excitement, you will have seen teamwork, and dealing with setbacks, and dealing with accomplishments.

"You will see the sheer joy that comes with being on a team." (Sign up to volunteer today!)

Richardson then announced the award winner -- Simon Landau, who has volunteer coached at Tubman Elementary School the past two years. Landau also recently used his birthday celebration as a fundraiser for DC SCORES; helps at large events; promotes our work through social media; and all for nothing in return.

He's the epitome of selfless, doing everything for the youth whom he coaches.

As the evening wrapped up, guests stopped at a table by the entrance to have photos of DeAndre and Kastenny signed by the star poets. They also chatted with the coaches in attendance, the best people to describe what goes into a day at DC SCORES.

And, of course, the award winners left with their new trophies feeling deservedly special on a night dedicated to their incredible work.

"I never expected to get an award our first year!" exclaimed Seaton coach Gloria Pineiro-Landing with a wide grin. "I was shocked."

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