|Raul (right) is heading to Marshall University.|
Then, Raul plans to get a Master’s degree.
“It makes me feel great because, well, it just means that I’m the only one in my family that’s actually moving on to the next level,” Raul, 18, said. “I can show them that it’s not impossible to get their education and get a good career.
“I want to be able to travel the world, to learn different languages, and help in different cities.”
Six years ago, such a vision would have seemed implausible to the shy, timid boy beginning his sixth-grade year at Thomson Elementary School. Sure, he had already taken his education further than both his parents. But Raul had a difficult time expressing himself, both on paper and vocally.
“I didn’t understand anything about writing,” Raul said. “People would ask me to write a sentence, but then if they asked me to write a paragraph, I wouldn’t know what to write.”
In his last year at Thomson, Raul, not wanting to go straight home after school, joined the DC SCORES team. The soccer practices and games were fun, but the writing sessions drastically altered his academic trajectory.
“I started learning a lot of things about poetry and writing, and that’s how I managed to pass some of my classes,” Raul said. “With DC SCORES.”
Raul’s writing improved dramatically, and he continued in DC SCORES at Jefferson Middle School during seventh and eighth grade. It was there that he realized the impact expression through writing can have.
“I never thought about writing as a way of communicating with other people or to express any kind of emotion,” Raul said, “so when I got into DC SCORES it actually helped me, or everybody in the program, learn how powerful writing can be.
“It showed us how it can get you places, it can get you further than anything else.”
At Jefferson, Raul and his fellow team members spent DC SCORES sessions writing about their experiences and struggles. He didn’t perform at the Poetry Slam!, but Raul observed the impact a teammate made with an original rap he wrote.
By the time he graduated from Jefferson, Raul’s writing was markedly better than three years prior. So was his confidence in expressing himself.
|Raul on one of the many field trips|
he took as an SYEP worker for DC SCORES.
It would have been easier for Raul to follow his family’s footsteps into a construction job. Instead, when he was asked during his freshman year at Cardozo Education Campus which academy he wanted to enter -- construction or engineering -- he chose the latter. Since that day, his passion for engineering hasn’t waned.
Engineering doesn’t require a lot of writing, but you have to be able to clearly express how things are done. This is where Raul uses the lessons learned from his DC SCORES writing sessions and performances.
“Even though engineering is mostly based on science and technology and mathematics, I feel like if, for example, someone asked you to explain what the processes you did were, you have to describe the process and the purpose and the items you’re trying to sell,” Raul said. “You have to make it seem like there’s something incredible that you can build.”
Raul honed that ability to explain something as a DC SCORES alum, spending the last three summers as a DC Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) counselor at the Marie Reed Soccer & Arts Camp. Raul was in charge of a group of elementary school youth each day and had to describe to them different activities and, of course, keep them in line.
“The summer camps helped me learn how to communicate with other people, helped my organizational skills, and they helped me learn how to become a better leader,” Raul said.
|"DC SCORES really meant a lot and it is one of the major|
reasons that I made it this far in school."
To some, those might seem like minor things. But for a young man who, in sixth grade, couldn’t write a paragraph and was withdrawn, they were major strides.
“When I was a little kid, I didn’t like talking to people I didn’t know,” Raul said. “I wasn’t good at making friends. Or when it involved me speaking to other people or an audience, I didn’t do it because I was too shy and timid.
“But ever since I went into the program, they’ve helped me learn how to communicate with other people and do community outreach.”
Speaking of outreach, Raul has never been to Marshall’s campus. His first visit will be for orientation. He’s excited about the opportunity, but also nervous because of the freedom college will provide.
He will be out on his own for the first time, but is armed with an insatiable desire to learn, a mapped-out educational path, and the ability to express his thoughts and ideas -- both on paper and in words.
“DC SCORES really meant a lot and it is one of the major reasons that I made it this far in school,” Raul said. “I feel like DC SCORES should continue helping all students because they will need it.
“Actually, having a connection with DC SCORES will help them with both college and high school.”