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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Alumni profile: Nijah Armstrong leans on influence of former coaches

Written by Jake Lloyd
Communications Manager

Nijah Armstrong wasn’t in DC SCORES for a long time, but the program’s impact still affects her today.

It’s taken her to Greensboro, N.C., where Nijah has done everything she possibly can as a student at North Carolina A&T State at the expense of rest.

“I catch sleep when I can,” said Nijah over the phone one summer afternoon, sounding anything but tired.

Nijah spends the majority of each 24 hours during the school year studying (as a double major in forensic science and psychology), leading (as the president of a business club), playing sports (on travel flag football and basketball teams), working (the night shift at the gym), taking care of her 4-year-old son Mekhi, and participating in other extracurrciular activities.

When she has “free time,” Nijah watches Law & Order or writes poetry.

“I’m just so determined to succeed,” Nijah said. “As long as I can take little naps, I’m good.”

Nijah, a rising senior, is also preparing for the LSAT or GRE as she debates between going to law school or getting a master’s in clinical psychology in a year.

No one who knows her would be surprised if Nijah does both.

So where did Nijah’s drive come from? How is she able to juggle so many responsibilities while maintaining a positive outlook?

Much of it can be traced to her short DC SCORES experience.


Nijah didn’t discover DC SCORES until her fifth grade year at Burrville Elementary School when her cousin, Brynee, told her to try it.

Brynee knew Nijah was fast, so thought she’d fit in well on the soccer field. Nijah clearly remembers being thrown into her first game against Aiton Elementary as a striker and immediately scoring a goal.

“After that, I just always would start there,” she said.

Nijah continued with the program for a little while at Kelly Miller Middle School, but it wasn’t the same without her Burrville coaches. Daryl Forte and Chiara Lee (now Mrs. Forte) made an immediate impact on the fifth-grader that extended well beyond playing her at striker.

This soccer story doesn’t go much further than that. There was a short stint playing goalie at Banneker High School that didn’t go so well -- “I’m scared to catch the ball!” Nijah laughs in reflecting -- and she hasn’t played much beyond that, but Nijah carried the lessons instilled in her by the Burrville coaches to where she is today.

“They taught me never to quit even if it’s tough -- life in general and in sports,” Nijah said.

Throughout middle and high school, Nijah had the ear of Forte and Lee. When she saw peers drop out of school or not bother with college applications, she had her former coaches' unyielding support and tough love in helping her stay on the right track.

So really, it’s no surprise that Nijah described DC SCORES -- despite her short time in the program -- as “like a bond. It’s bigger than sports. It’s everything -- the people you meet.”


After completing her junior year of college this spring, Nijah returned to the District and was on the sideline at Jamboree! May 30 cheering on her younger brother Jalen, a 12-year-old who has participated in DC SCORES at Burrville and now Kelly Miller.

Watching all the soccer games, Nijah was impressed by the skill level she witnessed across the grassy expanse at Anacostia Park. “The kids are getting so little now,” she added. “It’s crazy!”

This summer is Nijah’s “downtime” -- she’s only working two jobs as a camp counselor and at a department store in addition to parenting and beginning that post-undergrad studying.

And while Nijah is on her way to a well-rounded successful post-academic life, she still occasionally leans on the influences of those DC SCORES coaches -- such as when she needed advice on cars recently.

“They’re trying to help me find a car because I know nothing about cars. I know everything else in the world!” Nijah said with a laugh.

“They’re like family now.”

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