This fall, Dana Lopez began college at Trinity Washington University in Northeast DC.
It was quite the transition for Lopez from high school. She was on her own for the first time. Teachers wouldn't check up on her if she missed classes. She was, and is, solely responsible for doing well — for showing up.
So far, Lopez has done just fine. She wants to go into either business or criminal justice. Whichever path she chooses, you'd be smart to bet on the freshman succeeding in her field.
"I've just been very determined to make sure I do my best," Lopez said while volunteering at the DC SCORES Fall Frenzy Oct. 26.
Lopez isn't playing soccer at Trinity, but that doesn't mean the sport isn't impacting her life. The discipline she has to meet all her college deadlines? That, in part, comes from playing soccer — from being there for practice every day, from not letting down her teammates.
It all started with DC SCORES between Lopez's sixth- and seventh-grade years at Lincoln Middle School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. That summer, Lopez was handed a flier about a free summer camp run by the organization open to any students. She decided to check it out.
"I wanted to be in sports, and I didn't know what sports to do," Lopez said.
She had barely touched a soccer ball in her life. The nuances of the sport were foreign to her.
But not for long.
"When I heard about DC SCORES, I just went for it," Lopez said. "I started training for soccer and I got really good. I kept playing and that's all I wanted to do.
"It became my passion."
Lopez had just wanted to try a sport, not knowing what it would lead to. With the easy opportunity there — all she had to do was show up at camp — she quickly picked up the basic soccer skills, and it didn't take long for her to realize soccer was her thing. She couldn't be away from it.
"I was like, ‘Wow, I really like playing soccer,' it was so much fun," Lopez said. "It was a way to learn how to communicate with everybody, with the ball, so it was very fun.”
Lopez played for the Lincoln DC SCORES team during her seventh- and eighth-grade years, getting better during every practice and building tight-knit bonds with her teammates who, to this day, she calls some of her best friends.
The team almost won a championship, and Lopez thrived playing midfielder and defender.
When Lopez began ninth grade at Bell Multicultural High School, which shares the building with Lincoln, she narrowed her focus to schoolwork. Still, she wasn't giving up soccer.
Thanks to her experience with DC SCORES, she landed a spot on a DC Stoddert Soccer team called the 'Shooting Stars' that played every Saturday. Lopez loved the sport and couldn't completely abandon it, and she thought of it often.
Even when she was buried in school work, with tests and papers looming over her.
"You have to score the big A and just be focused what you're going for."
After struggling her first semester at Bell, Lopez rebounded and ended her senior year with a 3.5 GPA and that ticket to college.
Lopez credits soccer and DC SCORES for allowing her to reach this point, and she's stayed engaged with the organization. From being a counselor at summer camp — where she found her love of soccer — to helping at events like Fall Frenzy and keeping in touch with staff and board members, the college freshman stays involved.
That's something she wants to continue, especially with a cousin now taking a similar path to hers. Fabricio V. is a fifth-grade DC SCORES participant at Bancroft Elementary School.
“I told him to keep going," Lopez said. "Playing DC SCORES is a good way to be determined and meet a lot of people and have fun playing soccer."
Thousands of students in Washington, DC, lack the opportunity to play organized soccer (or any sport) like Dana. Your donation of any amount by Dec. 31 will go a long way toward providing that opportunity.