|Christian Melendez, Bell HS graduate.|
During the six weeks leading up to the fall DC SCORES season, we are highlighting former program participants who are enrolling in college. These young adults found many of their interests through their time in our Arts/Athletics/Academics model and have used the lessons learned through their teams to earn scholarships to continue their education.
This week we focus on Christian Melendez, a graduate of Bell Multicultural High School heading to Montgomery College to study economics.
When Christian Melendez was asked if he still played soccer, he laughed.
“Of course I play!" he exclaimed.
Ten years ago, Christian had no team when he began third grade at Tubman Elementary School. That's when he signed up for DC SCORES.
In the decade since, he played on SCORES teams at Tubman and neighboring Lincoln Middle School and transferred that experience to playing at Bell Multicultural High School.
Soccer became Christian's passion. He can't imagine life without it.
“I’m always playing," Christian said. "It keeps me in shape and just has so many benefits.”
In less than a month, Christian will continue his education at Montgomery College, which he plans to attend for two years before transferring to a bigger school such as Maryland. After becoming interested during a class this past year, Christian wants to study economics.
It's a safe bet he'll continue to play soccer, too.
The sport didn't just keep Christian in shape and provide something to do through DC SCORES. His teams at Tubman and Lincoln also led to several friendships which, Christian said, have stood the test of time and will continue to do so.
“Oh, countless, countless, probably at least a good 25, 30-ish, if I’m not mistaken," Christian said of bonds developed through soccer. "I made a whole bunch of connections that will go on with my life as I grow older that extend outside of soccer."
For Christian, DC SCORES provided tangible goals (no pun intended). He also saw what the program could lead to. As Christian's confidence grew and he developed more ability, his path toward playing in high school and using the game as a constant positive influence in his life became clearer.
“It gave me a motivation, it gave me a goal, it gave me something that I could actually achieve and made me think that if I work hard enough, I can actually achieve what the ultimate goal was, which was to win the city championship (on) both occasions (at Tubman and Lincoln)," Christian said.
The program also provided a safe haven for Christian from troubles in his life. He knew he could count on those two to three hours every day being safe, fun and positive.
It's hard to know, of course, but Christian isn't sure where he'd be today if not for his after-school experience.
"I probably would have been God knows what, something on the street," Christian said. "DC SCORES kept me in check, it kept me focused, it gave me something to look forward to every week despite whatever was going on in my life."
This summer as he prepared for his next step, Christian worked as a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) counselor at DC SCORES summer camp. He wanted to be a mentor for youth similar in age to when he joined DC SCORES, providing them the direction they need to find their passions -- whether soccer, poetry or something else.
“I certainly won’t say it was the easiest job to handle, but it’s certainly rewarding to give back to kids that – I was once that age and I understand how rebellious they can be," Christian said. "But helping them get a clear path with a goal and all, making sure that they take the most out of the program, was kind of gratifying to me as an alumni."
We look forward to hearing about Christian's continued journey. One thing we know for sure: He'll always be playing soccer.