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Monday, July 22, 2013

Passions found, demonstrated during summer of learning for DC youth

This summer, Roland Walker is working for DC SCORES through the Nonprofit Roundtable's Karel Fellowship program. Roland is a rising senior at the University of Florida majoring in Public Relations. He wrote the blog below for the Roundtable about his experience, to this point, at DC SCORES.

Written by Roland Walker

I see hope. I see community. I see a future’s promise.

We are working to move to a point where there is no separation between east and west. We are working to create a site of unity where dreams fade the lines of rich and poor. Everybody is together. Everybody is on the same team.

For over 1,450 kids in Washington D.C., DC SCORES is that team.

Perception of a brighter day is more than half of the endeavor. #RollsWisdom


Meet Christian, a program alum working at one of DC SCORES’ four free soccer and arts camps. At first glance, you may see a quiet kid outcast by his or her peers. I see someone who needs to find the right medium to express himself.

For numerous youth like Christian – who grew up with the program -- DC SCORES is a site of urban paradise. When the soccer balls come out, Christian and many camp participants take on an alter ego. They grow more competitive, more confident and more comfortable.

I sat down and had a one-on-one conversation with Christian, who just recently graduated from high school.

“Soccer is my release,” Christian said. “If I’m stressed, I come out and kick the ball.”

Soccer is a part of what gives Christian his identity.


Something in the way she moves 
Attracts me like no other lover 
Something in the way she woos me I don’t want to leave her now 
You know I believe and how 
Somewhere in her smile she knows 
That I don’t no other lover 
Something in her style that shows me I don’t want to leave her now 
You know I believe and how 
You’re asking me will my love grow I don’t know, I don’t know 
You stick around now, it may show I don’t know, I don’t know 
Something in the way she knows 
And all I have to do is think of her 
Something in the things she shows me I don’t want to leave her now 
You know I believe and how


He doesn’t appear to be someone who would get up and sing the lyrics you just read – Something by The Beatles.

Never judge a book by its cover; lesson learned. Marie Reed Elementary School third-grader Chayanne had everybody tuned in when he got up to sing.

I was amazed to see the bravery coming from him, and the other campers in the room were too.

Confidence is crucial in life, and seeing a younger child break fear’s barriers makes me want to encourage them even more.

You may see an energetic child who needs to settle down. I see someone who wants to explore the world and express themselves.


Have you ever met someone where it seems as if talking gave his or her body the energy to move? Taleah looks at that person every day she looks in a mirror.

I can relate to her. She wants others to pay attention to her and to feel a certain way when she speaks. A volunteer musician named Cody came by camp the second week of July and taught the children the basics of recording music. I watched as Taleah was in and out of participation. Until suddenly, she got up and wanted to record something in front of the microphone. After she left her seat, she didn’t sit back down.

Taleah sung a couple of popular songs and then she nobly recited a poem for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.

I was shocked and humbled how she had the will to commemorate an event that brought pain to so many lives. I can’t help but see the wonderful things that can come from her being herself. She has a beautiful skill where she can take the struggles and the bliss of life and convert that into imagery through words.


High energy describes Jamael. His name should be synonymous with the word restless. DC SCORES helps to put that energy in constructive places. Summer camp at Marie Reed provides him with multiple chances to express himself through soccer, poetry, arts and crafts.

I am not exaggerating when I say he is excited for every activity. I feel good to know this kid has a place to be himself.

You may see a band of young people lost in the world. I see a group of leaders and a new generation that can make the world a more positive place.


“He was one of the kids whose behavior was real bad when he first started seven years ago,” Program Director Cory Chimka said to me on the way to Marie Reed one day.

I gave him a look of disbelief because the kid we were talking about is one of the faces, if not the face, at the teenage level of the program. His name is Nana.

Nana, a rising senior at Wilson High School, has the potential to play soccer at a higher level and is a humble kid at heart. He makes good grades in school and gives back to his community, working as a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) worker.

Nana says that DC SCORES was extremely important in helping him get to the point where he is. He is a wonderful example of the program’s effectiveness during the after-school hours.


In Mid-July, I took a trip down memory lane with the kids at the National Museum of Natural History. They showed extreme excitement right off the bus. I was thrilled as well. As we viewed the exhibits, the kids wanted to soak up every bit of knowledge they could.

“What does electromagnetic mean?”

“How did the dinosaurs die out?”

“If I give a girl the hope diamond, will she like me?”

The kids read all they could and touched whatever they could reach.

It wasn’t until after we got out of the museum that I realized the full impact of the program. We had half an hour left and as we were deciding which of the other museums we would go to, Victor (wearing his “Bulls” shirt) announced, “Let’s play soccer. I brought my ball in my backpack.”

I thought to myself, you have the option to play soccer anytime. We are at the National Mall; let’s see all we can see.

Right then and there is when I had a flashback. The way these kids love soccer is the same way I love the sport of basketball. The sport is part of their identity, just as I had learned it is a part of Christian’s identity (standing right). They love to play anywhere, any time.


What you are looking at is an impact over two generations. Two generations and counting.

DC SCORES is soccer, poetry and service-learning. Because of my experience at summer camp, I’ve learned how to take life’s magical moments and transfer them into visual, verbal and written messages that connect outsiders – those who don’t experience the program -- to the overall mission and connection that these kids feel to soccer, poetry and each other.


I have visions of a young mother teaching her kids things she never knew 
I see children treating negativity as nothing to do and being positive as nothing new 
Humanitarians and activists work under the alias ”non-profits” but we gain so much 
There’s an abundance of love in our efforts 
May we reach a day where we can look up at sunny skies and feel warm weather 
The time of today calls for us Knowledge is power; we need to become superheroes in communities 
This summer I’m on a mission to find my strengths 
You know saving the world is every hero’s destiny 
Lead by example so when others want to march behind a unit of change… 
I will confidently smile and say follow me - 
-- Roland E. Walker IV


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