Written by Amy Nakamoto
Heart. Rhythm. Love. Sound.
These words and song title were written by our MacFarland “Crusader” middle school students as part of an America SCORES/ASCAP partnership in 2010. Students work with professional musicians to jointly write, record, and perform a song. I LOVE this “rock/folk-like” song (written and performed with The Great Unknown). It’s probably one of the most played on my iPod because all I hear are our kids’ poignant, silly, serious, and adolescent words coming out cohesively in verse.
This is the magic of DC SCORES.
When I began in this role in 2006, my team and I wanted to ensure that as many students as possible could be a part of DC SCORES. At that time, we were working with 20 schools and about 650 elementary school students. Our waitlist was overflowing with schools that wanted DC SCORES.
We created a vision and got to work.
Over the next eight years, DC SCORES would expand to middle schools, complete the organization's first exhaustive outcomes evaluation, define and refine what 'quality' looks like at each site, shift sustainability strategies, exponentially grow the staff, and ultimately increase the annual budget from $850,000 to more than $2M.
Today 1,500 elementary and middle school students at 47 schools are in DC SCORES. Each student is part of a team -- creatively expressing themselves, and providing service to their community. Students leave our program more physically fit, academically engaged, and have a higher sense of self-worth and sense of belonging than when they began.
As I allow myself to briefly look back, I see the faces of students like Jarmar, Emily, Ingrid, Christian, Ana, Aaron and Nana — all students who joined DC SCORES in elementary school with varying and important needs. They were shy, needed a place to belong, wanted to be an athlete, didn't love school, needed a mentor, had things to say, were disengaged, socially isolated, and the list goes on. They found a home in DC SCORES from elementary school, through middle, and then as volunteers and active alums in our high school network.
They are transformed. And they will become remarkable, thoughtful and successful adults.
There remains a lot of excitement and work ahead for DC SCORES. We are on the cusp of launching a formal program for our high school-age youth, and a school waitlist remains. We are focusing deeper on evaluation and increasing volunteer engagement exponentially. I am more confident than ever in the DC SCORES family that will carry on this important work, led by my replacement, Bethany Henderson. Bethany’s impressive experience, entrepreneurial approach, and history of building initiatives and organizations within existing infrastructures will serve DC SCORES greatly through its next phase.
The oft-repeated line in ‘my’ song (from above), “I pass you the ball, and you pass it back to me” contains many metaphors. I’ve had the chance to impact hundreds of young people’s lives, work within amazing teams, and grow personally and professionally. Thank you all for passing me the ball.
I pass it back to you.
Amy will be the Assistant Director of Advancement at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware, beginning this fall. Stay connected by following her on Twitter at @AmyNakamoto.