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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Burrville Eagles Part I: A family of DC SCORES participants

Ms. Jenkins, as she's known at Burrville, with members
of the Eagles DC SCORES team. 
Note: This is the first part of a series on the DC SCORES program at Burrville Elementary School in Ward 7, which has been in place since 1999. Part II comes tomorrow!

Because Halloween fell on a Thursday, DC SCORES coaches at 30 elementary schools throughout Washington, DC, faced a bit of a challenge: Convincing their team members — not to mention, parents, teachers, and others within their school communities — that, yes, there would be time to trick or treat after soccer.

There were no problems at Burrville Elementary School in Ward 7. At 3:50pm, the goals on the soccer field were set up, players were in neat lines taking shots on goal, and — on the slight hill that separates soccer field and school building — parents, teachers and others were gathering.

When the opposing team, Anne Beers Elementary School, arrived 10 minutes later, DC SCORES Game Day was set to begin — like it has hundreds of times over the past 14 years.

There's a reason things always run so smoothly at Burrville — stability. The same people have been at the school and available to students during the after-school hours every single year. There's a strong trust and mutual respect between pupils and adults.

Edythe Jenkins — or Ms. Jenkins, as she's known by most of the school community — arrived at Burrville in the mid-1990s, retired in 2006, then came back to work in after-care two years later. Today, at 77, she feels young spending every afternoon with elementary school students.

"Age is like numbers," Jenkins laughed while sitting in the Burrville gymnasium during Game Day. "I try not to pay much attention to it.

"I like to be active. I don't like sitting around."

Daryl Forte, 41, grew up in the neighborhood and attended Burrville during the 1970s when there were no programs available like DC SCORES. Following college, he worked in the federal government for a few years all while feeling the tug of his old school and neighborhood.

In the late 1990s, Forte returned and has been changing lives ever since. During the school day, he teaches physical education and listens to any problems his students feel comfortable sharing with him. Once the bell rings, he take his no-nonsense approach outside to teach youth the game of soccer and what it means to be on a team.

"I take seriously being a role model for the kids and just (them) knowing that they have me to come to," Forte said.

Lillian Allen is Jenkins' daughter, but to avoid confusion even her mother calls her Ms. Allen. She, to avoid confusing students, reciprocates by calling her mother Ms. Jenkins.

Allen arrived at Burrville in the late 1980s and hasn't left. She's held a few positions, including running the after-care program that Jenkins now helps her with.

Allen has been at the school, like Forte, for every DC SCORES season — including seven consecutive City Cup championships for the girls soccer team. She knows as well as anyone how the Eagles' soccer teams create an excitement in the community that normally one would associate with high school or college athletic outfits.

"I think last year we were starting to sell hot dogs outside," Allen said. "The word has gotten around. Every year we see more and more parents coming from the community."


Describing Burrville as a big family fits perfectly for Jenkins and Allen. That's because many of their grandchildren and great grandchildren — and, yes, one of Jenkins' great, great grandchildren! — have gone to the school.

And participated in DC SCORES.

Many of them are now in college.

There's Daniel Jenkins, who next month will graduate from Penn State with a degree in Communications. He's one of Ms. Jenkins' 17 grandchildren and the first to don a Burrville Eagles soccer uniform for Forte.

Nijah Allen, a grandchild of Ms. Allen's, is attending North Carolina A&T. Brynee Dade, a niece of Ms. Allen, is a junior at George Mason University studying Home Economics. Nijah and Brynee are great grandchildren of Ms. Jenkins'.

So is Jalen Allen, who's a sixth-grade DC SCORES participant at Kelly Miller Middle School — less than a mile from Burrville. And Nicholas Allen, nephew of Jenkins', went through Burrville before continuing school in Maryland.

Add in Marvin Timmons, and that's six grandchildren or great grandchildren of Jenkins and Allen who have come through the Burrville DC SCORES pipeline.

Born, raised and educated through high school in Washington, DC, Jenkins didn't have any after-school options like DC SCORES. She had no idea what soccer was, either.

So when the DC SCORES program came to Burrville in 2000, she took a look at the shinguards worn by her students and shook her head in confusion.

"I kept saying, 'Why do y'all have this long thing down your leg?'" Jenkins said.

Once she saw a few kicks to the shinguard, Jenkins quickly figured out the equipment's purpose. It also didn't take her long to buy into the after-school program and its approach to connecting with youth.

Jenkins is beloved at the school for her kindness and openness. When a child has a problem during after-care, she listens. Much like DC SCORES' emphasis on empowering youth by giving them a voice through poetry and the chance to make a difference through service-learning, Jenkins embraces the role of being someone the children can always approach.

"When they see you're concerned, it helps a lot," Jenkins said. "And you're not hollering at them and you're just talking to them nice. It helps a lot."

After the first- and second-graders had been picked up from after-care Halloween afternoon, Jenkins, decked out in a blue DC SCORES summer camp T-shirt, walked outside. The Burrville boys game had just concluded, the Eagles scoring with 10 seconds left to win for a thrilling 2-1 victory.

As Jenkins walked down the steps in the fading light toward the field, she was greeted by all the children that passed her. When she stopped for a photo with three youth in their red uniforms, they all smiled big. It was as if they were posing with a celebrity.

That, in a way, is how Jenkins is viewed by the Burrville student body. Just ask Forte, who's been at the school longer than she has.

"She's pretty much the grandmother of the team," he said. "All the kids, they love Ms. Jenkins and they know to thank her for her contributions to the soccer team both monetary and her support of the team."


The Jenkins/Allens isn't the only family tree strongly linked to DC SCORES' 13-year history at Burrville. There's the Smiths — five children, including former Poetry Slam! star Jasia.

And there are many more DC SCORES families, the women insist.

Jenkins wishes the program would begin in first grade for the students. As soon as students enroll at Burrville, they see the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders decked out in their Burrville jerseys and want to take part. A couple years ago, Forte and his co-coach Chiara Forte (then Chiara Lee before they recently married) even began organizing short scrimmages for the younger children during halftime of the games.

Allen is just glad that thanks in large part to her after-care program and DC SCORES, students are taken care of through their elementary school years.

"We have some scholars that with DC SCORES, that's saved them," Allen said, "because without DC SCORES and them having that option to say, 'Well, I can do something different, I don't always have to get in trouble,' DC SCORES has been that."

"Everybody gets a chance to play soccer ... It has really opened up a lot of doors for a lot of them."

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