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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Burrville Eagles Part II: Forte returns to former school to coach

Daryl Forte returned to his former elementary
school to teach PE and coach soccer.
Note: This is the second part of a series on the DC SCORES program at Burrville Elementary School in Ward 7, which has been in place since 1999. Read Part I here.

Daryl Forte stands on a small dirt patch near the goal he's breaking down. About 25 years ago when he was in kindergarten, this was where the school building stood. By the time he entered first grade, the new structure was in place. But it would be decades before Burrville had a soccer team.

"When I was coming up, we didn't have programs like DC SCORES," Forte said. "As a matter of fact, for me, I didn't get into athletics until middle school."

A couple years after Forte returned to his home neighborhood to teach, DC SCORES arrived at Burrville. He jumped at the chance to coach a sport he had always loved but not had the chance to play.

"I try to encourage the kids through coaching," Forte said. "You have an opportunity to have what I didn't have," he tells them.

Forte has the build of a middle linebacker, and during girls and boys games he paces the sideline constantly encouraging his players in a loud, boisterous voice. "Shoot, shoot!" he yells when a girl nears the opposing goal.

But when the game is over, Forte's even-keeled demeanor returns regardless of the outcome. After all, like Jenkins, he is one of the school's most recognizable faces. Everything he says and does will be mimicked by his young student-athletes.

He's a leader of not just a soccer team, but a community.

"With the coaches, we also try to encourage the kids that we're all one family," Forte said. "We win together, we lose together, and at the end we'll celebrate together as a family."

As darkness sweeps over the empty field, Forte can't imagine his life without Burrville. Growing up, any sports coaches he did have never stayed for long. He didn't get the chance to be a part of a strong school community molded together through athletics.

"Community wise, it means a lot being able to walk the same hallways that the kids are now walking," Forte said, "and share with them some of my experiences being a youth in the neighborhood."


Nowadays — 25 years since Lillian Allen began at Burrville as an educational aide; about 17 years since Edythe Jenkins took her first job at the school in its cafeteria; and 16 years after Forte returned to teach at his former school — the trio observes the impact of the program through who returns.

At a recent Game Day, a pair of Burrville graduates asked Forte if he needed help. He enlisted them to run warmups. With each passing season, Allen said, the number of Eagles alumni who come back to the school to sit on the mini hill and support the soccer team increases.

Those cheers can also be heard loud and clear during the Eastside Poetry Slam! at the culmination of each fall season. When Burrville's poets take the stage, hundreds of Eagles watch in anticipation, with the occasional parent, grandparent (or maybe great grandparent?) yelling out "Go Eagles!"

"It's just amazing how it carries over from one year to another," Allen said of the community spirit.

The Burrville girls and coach Forte and  after winning their
seventh straight City Cup championship last spring. 
When the competitive spring soccer season arrives, community members remind themselves, Allen said, "Better get up to Burrville to watch a soccer game."

Forte's parents still live in the community and don't miss many of their son's games. And Jenkins, when she can get out of her post-retirement after-care duties, joins the Eagles cheering section, too.

Her grandchildren are graduating from college. Her great grandchildren are out of elementary school. But the Burrville community, in a sense, is an extension of Jenkins' family. A day rarely goes by when a student doesn't run up to her, give a hug, and greet Jenkins as "Grandma."

Much like a sports coach, Jenkins doesn't let her age make her think about retiring again. She's having too much fun within her Burrville family. Why step away now?

"I enjoy what I do, I really do," she said. "And whenever I can help (the team) with snacks or anything, I always contribute.

"It's something that I do because I want to do it."

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