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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alumni profile: Claudia Umaña creates successful path for brother to follow

Written by Jake Lloyd 
Communications Manager 

When Claudia Umaña heard that her nonprofit employer, Women’s Policy, would be co-hosting a briefing on how sports can improve girls’ health and partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, her interest was immediately piqued.

Claudia, a Program Associate at Women’s Policy for almost a year now, loves soccer and her eyes light up whenever anyone speaks of the beautiful game. So she was there on June 16, when DC SCORES participant Nohemy talked about how much being active and playing for her school meant.

The briefing brought back a flood of memories for Claudia, who participated in DC SCORES for four years in the mid-2000s at Bancroft Elementary School. She was also surprised when Nohemy, at least eight years her junior, recognized Claudia from having seen her play.

For Claudia, a 2014 Lafayette College graduate, working with Women’s Policy to ensure opportunities in sport and other areas for girls like Nohemy is extremely gratifying.

“I take a great amount of pride because that means these girls are being active but also being treated equally and taking advantage of sports in general that maybe before —even before my generation — (they) could not,” Claudia said recently.

The supportive team-based structure DC SCORES provided paved the road for not only Claudia's successful education, but also her brother’s. Together, they’ll be the first from their family to graduate not just from college — but high school, too.


Claudia, second from the right, with her Wilson teammates. Claudia began playing organized soccer in DC SCORES.
Claudia Umaña, as she tells it, had to grow up early. The oldest of two siblings with a single mother working multiple jobs, she was tasked with taking care of her younger brother, José, before she even turned 10.

Her mother, an immigrant from El Salvador, worked tirelessly to support the family and came to Claudia’s DC SCORES games at Bancroft in the District’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood when she could. But on most days, Claudia was on her own during the after-school hours — and needed to keep tabs on José.

That responsibility would weigh down any elementary school child, but Claudia’s burden was lightened when José followed in her footsteps and joined the DC SCORES team in third grade.

“The reason he started — I sort of told him about the Bancroft program,” Claudia said. “We did basically the same thing.”

Just like Claudia, José could count on a positive, structured and safe environment — five days a week between 3-6pm. And during those hours, as Claudia finished her time at Bancroft and then moved on to Alice Deal Junior High, she needn’t worry. José, wearing that signature yellow Bancroft uniform, was just fine.

“I do remember feeling like a huge weight was off my shoulders,” Claudia recalled. “But also I wasn’t feeling so overwhelmed in the sense of, I didn’t have to worry about him, I didn’t have to know where he was because I knew where he was and I knew that he was safe and I knew that he was having fun.

Claudia won three DCIAA championships during her four years at Wilson!
“So that I way, I could enjoy myself and give it my all on the team.”

Given the freedom to focus mostly on herself and her teams, Claudia continued to hone her soccer skills — excelling at Deal and then winning three D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) championships as a star defender at Wilson High School.

José followed his older sister to Deal and then Wilson, becoming pretty good at soccer himself.

“I knew that he was good,” Claudia laughed. “I would never admit this to him, but he was better than I was.”

This summer, José is preparing to begin his senior year as the University of Massachusetts-Amherst where he occasionally plays soccer but more importantly is in line to become the second member of his family to graduate with a college degree.


As the first from her family to graduate
from high school and go to college,
Claudia studied at Lafayette College and
spent a semester in South Africa!
Nowadays, Claudia no longer plays organized soccer, but her interest in the sport hasn’t waned.

“I love soccer and anyone that asks me now, I always say soccer (is my favorite sport),” Claudia said. “I’m a huge soccer fanatic.”

Claudia played pickup games with the boys growing up, but it wasn’t until a teacher suggested she join the Bancroft team that her passion for the sport reached another level.

“I always liked soccer but I developed the love once I got to play soccer (on a team),” she said.

That passion pushed Claudia to stay on top of her academics. At Bancroft, as we wrote about last fall, everyone wants to be on the DC SCORES team and students must perform well in school to play in the games. It motivated her to continue playing during middle school and high school – and to encourage José to do the same.

And it’s why she gushes with pride, in her current role, when she hears current DC SCORES participants such as Nohemy speak about the influence being on a team has on them.

Because Claudia’s been there. She’s experienced it. And she know how real it is.

It changed her and her brother’s life — all for the better.

“Because DC SCORES had such a large impact on my life, I was so glad to hear that younger generations were still appreciating and being involved in this program,” Claudia said of watching Nohemy speak.

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