Written by Jake Lloyd
When Ana Galeas joined DC SCORES as a third-grader at Raymond Education Campus in 2006, there was one reason.
Now, 10 years later, here is Ana, 18, speaking for six consecutive minutes about the program in front of 150 people at a Brookings Institute event in her hometown of Washington, DC. Ana sits alongside the likes of former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.
She only mentions soccer a couple times during the testimonial to the program she’s been involved in for a decade.
“DC SCORES has helped me a lot starting with helping me be a better leader, helping me to be a mentor to little kids and reminding myself that I was one of those little kids,” Ana says.
“When you see them smile you just remind yourself that it’s something that you’re helping them in.”
Even if one didn’t know Ana before July 14, 2016, it’d be clear after hearing her speak that she’s a well-rounded, confident young woman ready to take the next step.
This fall, Ana will attend Montgomery College. But first, she has a couple weeks left of leading kids at DC SCORES summer camp. This is her fourth year as a Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) counselor for SCORES.
|From left: Rising sophomore at Trinity University, Ingrid Melendez, alumnae soccer coach Asa Davis, and Ana.|
Ana grew up in DC with soccer. Her father, originally from El Salvador, was the president of a local soccer team that played matches every weekend. Ana would tag along with her older sister to games, watching intently from the sidelines.
Because of academics, Ana’s mother held her back for a year in third grade. Her second time through, Ana joined DC SCORES because she wanted to play soccer. Her grades improved, and she loved the feeling of being on a team.
In fifth grade, Ana moved from defender to goalie and wasn’t good at first -- “I remember my first time playing goalie, they made like 20 goals. I was so bad,” Ana says now laughing -- but stuck with it and enjoyed playing the position. But then the year was over, and Raymond at the time did not have middle school programming. All of a sudden, Ana was without the team and opportunity to continue playing and improving her skills.
Sixth and seventh grade were rough for Galeas socially.
“Those were two years when I really fell off,” she says. “I just went to school and came back home. I didn’t do nothing.”
Galeas transferred to Lincoln Middle School in eighth grade, in part so she could participate in DC SCORES again. She missed the sport, the camaraderie. She didn’t play goalie at Lincoln, instead taking on her third position, forward, and she bonded with her new teammates.
Additionally, that year was when for the first time in her life, her parents were able to attend a game of hers. Galeas’ mother had never been fond of her playing soccer, as it’s never been a cultural norm for Latinas. That game day helped change her perception.
“They were like, ‘You could have done better,’” Ana says with a chuckle of what her parents told her afterward, referring to a play when she fell down, “but then at the same time they were like, ‘I’m really proud of you that you did something.’”
That could have been the end, and a nice one at that, of Ana’s DC SCORES story. But really, it was just the beginning.
During her lone year at Lincoln, Ana met Popsie Lewis -- a fixture in the school community and the longtime boys soccer coach. When Ana moved to the other side of the Columbia Heights Education Campus building to attend Bell Multicultural High School, she kept in touch with Popsie and frequently saw the girls still on the Lincoln team.
In ninth grade, Ana learned that the team needed an assistant coach. She jumped at the opportunity. She also began refereeing elementary school games on Thursday afternoons at nearby Tubman. Not only was she satisfying her service hours requirement, an essential obligation as she began to look toward college; Ana was also imparting her knowledge from several years of SCORES on a group of girls that could be hard-headed but listened to their peer.
|Ana (second from left) with other DC SCORES alumni who became certified referees.|
With each year of coaching, Ana’s confidence rose along with others’ trust in her. She was becoming a leader, both on and off the field. Even as Ana took up rugby in 10th grade and began traveling every weekend for games, she continued to coach Lincoln and even helped lead poetry sessions in 11th grade.
“I feel like it was important to me to be with them,” Ana says now.
DC SCORES was there for Ana beyond Lincoln’s soccer field and classroom, too. During 11th grade, she was nominated VP of the Alumni Leadership Board. With peers from throughout DC, she planned and ran events such as the highly successful annual soccer tournament. She served as a conduit for other former poet-athletes to stay engaged with the program.
With each visit to the DC SCORES office, Galeas’ world opened up more and more. Staff helped sign her up for Youth Leadership Greater Washington in 2014, a 6-month development and community and education program through which Ana met others from DC, Maryland and Virginia. In May 2015, she spoke on a President’s Council on Fitness panel about her DC SCORES experience.
If Ana didn’t visit DC SCORES for a couple weeks, Greta Poku-Adjei, Ana’s closest confidante, asked why. When it came time to apply for colleges, they worked together to knock out the applications and apply for all the right scholarships that could make her dream a reality.
|Assistant coach Ana (in the back with the hat) and the Lincoln girls team that won the Capital Cup title.|
“She didn’t have that much help with college,” Ana says. “So that, too -- DC SCORES came into that. They helped me a lot in (applying for) college.”
Galeas didn’t apply to her dream school, the University of Maryland, because she was scared of rejection. Now, she realizes that was a mistake but also sees a road that will lead her there -- a pathway program that would involve two years at Montgomery followed by a transition to College Park.
“It feels nice, it feels awesome,” Ana says, anticipating the beginning of her next life phase.
But she’s not there yet. Ana has unfinished business at summer camp. With each day, she imparts knowledge on the third- fourth- and fifth-graders from her 10 years of involvement with DC SCORES. She lets them know that yes, soccer is great, but there’s also so much more they can do. There are multiple paths toward being successful and happy.
“I told them, ‘You guys can focus on two things,’” Ana says. “There’s always more than one thing you can do. I told that to some of the girls. If you have the ability to do more than one thing, you will never feel empty.”
And that’s what she’s learned from her first game in a Raymond uniform all the way to sitting in front of hundreds of people alongside the former mayor of Philadelphia: With a strong support network, so much is possible. Horizons are expanded.
Dreams, whether old or new, are realized.
“Continue to not stop and to never look back,” Ana tells her summer campers. “The more things you’ll do, the more you’ll be happy about yourself.”