The 18th Annual DC SCORES Jamboree! was epitomized by its moments.
Perhaps none better defined the June 1 celebration of the spring season than the one in the aftermath of the City Cup championship soccer games that kicked off the event.
Before the Burrville Elementary School girls team received the trophy for winning a seventh consecutive title, a girl clad in her red DC SCORES uniform stood up and -- in front of DC Councilmembers Tommy Wells and David Grosso -- said that all participants from the four teams that played in the games were winners. She then walked over to the seated Marie Reed Elementary girls and the Wheatley Education Campus boys, giving out high fives.
Thus began a day that involved winning and trophies, but left all participants smiling -- and tired -- after several hours of soccer games, facepainting and much more.
The Jamboree! was, by far, the largest-scale DC SCORES event in the organization's 19-year history. Over 1,450 youth representing 45 schools joined hundreds of parents, dozens of volunteers, and a handful of awesome program partners at Anacostia Park.
To give an idea of just how large the event was, 128 elementary and middle school soccer games were played on 14 fields. And that was just the soccer.
There were also:
Did I mention the 128 soccer games?
They began with the City Cup championship games at 8:15 a.m. The Burrville Eagles girls team -- a DC SCORES dynasty -- listened to the constant urgings of "PASS! PASS!" from their coach Daryl Forte and used teamwork to defeat Reed in the girls game. In the boys game, Reed -- DC SCORES' flagship school where the program began in 1994 -- defeated first-time championship game participant Wheatley.
All four teams received trophies from Executive Director Amy Nakamoto, and special guests Wells and Grosso hung medals around the students' necks.
The championship games complete, the Jamboree! kicked off for everyone -- with seven elementary school games and seven middle schools games played simultaneously for over 5 hours. Teams were guaranteed three games, and some played as many as seven. The games were all refereed by DC SCORES volunteers, who could be spotted in their neon yellow T-shirts all over the park grounds throughout the entire event.
After losing two of their first three games, the MacFarland boys -- playing as a DC SCORES team for the final time -- rallied to win two consecutive games. Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, which is also closing at the end of the school year, had a magical four-game streak that ended just short of the boys championship, won for a third straight time by Paul Public Charter School.
On the middle school girls side, Capital City Public Charter School participants thought their day was over after a loss and began walking to the parking lot. But it wasn't. The tournament's double-elimination format gave them a chance to keep playing, and they did just that all the way to the championship to cap off the school's first year as a DC SCORES program participant.
By 3pm, the music died down, the last games were whistled complete, the final trophies were rewarded, and kids from 45 schools boarded buses content and exhausted from a day that perfectly encapsulated everything the DC SCORES spring season is about and included many of the people, partners and volunteers who make it all possible.
DC SCORES’ winter season takes place over 8 weeks, at select DC SCORES schools across the District. During this break from the regular soccer, creative writing, and service-learning progaming, AmeriCorps members teach youth about healthy eating and how to navigate the aisles of a grocery store using the USDA’s Power of Choice curriculum. Aside from the knowledge and skills students gain during Power of Choice, they continue to form positive relationships with their peers and coaches, and stay active during the time of year when many youth resort to eating larger portions of unhealthier foods and spend their after school time at home on the couch.
The DC SCORES winter session came to an end on Friday, February 22. On one of the final days of programming, I joined the Thomson Tigers as they reflected on best practices and lessons learned:
I sit down with Stephanie, as she waits her turn to warm up. She tells me she's improved in her dribbling abilities, and she’s better at passing back and forth. I ask her for advice — if she were to pass on one recommendation, gleaned from her experience during the Power of Choice program, what would it be?
“I’d say, get healthy, get energy-ed, get exercise.”
I get a sense of that energy when, a moment later, Coach Marco blows his whistle and Stephanie takes off, running the entire span of the gym within 30 seconds.
Just watching her tires me out. I clearly need to get “energy-ed.”
During the team break for water, I ask Daniel C. if he's changed since the beginning of Winter SCORES. He thinks for a moment.
"I'm taller," he reflects.
"Is that because of all the healthy food?" I ask.
"Yeah … the broccoli."
I ask Daniel if he has any recommendations for a healthier lifestyle, any major takeaways from the season.
"People have to look at the back of what they’re buying … you have to eat more healthy things.”
Luis has changed, too — some of his habits are different today, thanks to the Power of Choice program.
"I don't drink so much pop. I drink a lot of water now. I'm a better soccer player too."
Just in time for spring training, Sebastian's learned that teamwork is the way to go.
"We can do more together than we can do by ourselves," he explains. "It's better to work together."
The Tigers have improved their soccer skills, developed their notion of teamwork, and expanded their understanding of nutrition to best fuel up for the field. From where I'm sitting, (on the bleachers, avoiding the ball) they've built a strong team that is well prepared and ready to take on the toughest competition.
Their hard work has made me want to change, too, and shown me the value of taking small steps to being a healthier person and teammate. In this spirit, before we leave, I ask these experts to advise me on the healthiest way to spend my evening.
"Get exercise, and you'll be more energized," Juan Carlos says.
As for dinner?
"Vegetables .. .tomatoes and broccoli," says Daniel. "A medium amount."
Juan Carlos adds, “Apples, bananas, grapefruits … a lot of fruit.”
A final suggestion from Luis: “soup with vegetables, maybe some chicken. And carrot juice.”
I take notes. Shopping list in hand, my night becomes exponentially more nutritious. With knowledge and practical know-how like that, it’s clear the spring soccer and service-learning season will be successful for the Thomson Tigers. In just a couple short weeks, they’ll be back on the field putting the winter session of preparation into action.
I can’t wait to see them shine some more.
Last week marked the completion of the 18th fall season of DC SCORES programming. Hard to believe, right? Was it really that long ago that Julie Kennedy, a teacher at Marie Reed, introduced the game of soccer and then -- on a rainy day -- the art of poetry to her students? The program, of course, began with that one group of youth and quickly grew. In 1999, it led to the birth of America SCORES, which now has 14 affiliates throughout the U.S. from Boston and Atlanta to Seattle and L.A. And to this day, the Arts-Athletics-Academics model -- as simple as it sounds -- makes an indelible impact on the lives of thousands of youth. If ever there was a lack of interest in our program or the necessity of what we provide waned, we might have to change. Instead, we grow -- serving over 1,450 youth at 42 schools -- and continue to strive to serve any youth in the District who wants to be on a team. Just last week, we saw how important that is to our students. At our 15th Annual Poetry Slam! on Wednesday and Thursday, teams of students showed incredible pride in their schools and communities through self-expression. One of the dozens of impressive and courageous performances came from a Wheatley Education Campus student who, with his teammates at his side and his lips quivering, read a touching and powerful poem about his father's infidelity. Without DC SCORES, those feelings likely would have remained inside him. The official soccer games season concluded with the Capital Cup championship games on Nov. 20, but last week demonstrated the importance to youth of having an outlet through which to play. On Friday, the last day of the DC SCORES season, Sacred Heart Bilingual School traveled to MacFarland Middle School to play the Crusaders in a make-up game.
The game had no meaning in the standings. A win wouldn't lead to another game. Yet the kids showed up excited for the chance to play a real game with a referee against another school. It was a big deal to them -- and an opportunity they only get through DC SCORES. Hearing about Friday's experience reminded me of a DC SCORES game day from earlier in the season involving Perry Street Prep and Wheatley. In a rare mishap, we didn't have goals at Wheatley that afternoon. I thought the students might be disappointed. Instead, they barely noticed the large orange cones the coaches and I set up. There was an infectious enthusiasm on the field that afternoon, a joy derived from the basic opportunity to run up and down a field kicking and passing a soccer ball. That, to me, demonstrated what DC SCORES -- and our affiliates nationwide -- means to the students involved. They don't care about manicured fields. Just give them a ball, teammates to pass to, and some green space, and they'll have a great time and improve their physical fitness in doing so. Give them a $1 composition book and a pen, and they'll feel the freedom to write down their innermost feelings. Then give them a stage on which to express what they've penned and a microphone, and they'll feel empowered. Eighteen years since this program started, it's amazing to see how effective the SCORES model still is and the impact it has on thousands of youth. We can't wait for next season!
August 6, 2012
With summer camp coming to a close last week, I took the time to reflect on the summer’s best moments. Nothing has been more valuable than the alumni’s dedication to community service, a passion first introduced to them when participating in DC SCORES as young poet-athletes.
This summer there were over 15 dedicated volunteers who came out as coaches, camp counselors, and all-around DC SCORES enthusiasts. We want to take the time to personally highlight a few extraordinary individuals who went above and beyond in donating their time to our program.
Nana, a rising junior at Wilson High School
Saul, a rising senior at Bell Multicultural
Rachel, a rising junior at Wilson
For Nana, he wanted nothing more than to "spend the summer showing kids why DC SCORES was so important to me when I was their age." As a leader on the soccer field, he took ownership of his soccer skills. He showed the campers that if you work hard enough and play with heart instead of just your mind, than you can grow into an amazing athlete.
Saul said it wasn't difficult to find an incentive to work at camp, even though his peers were being paid through our Summer Youth Employment Program. "Seeing the kids every day, and hearing them chant my name at camp was more than enough,” Saul said. “I made some great friends on staff too, friends that have lived near me this whole time and I had no idea!"
Our staff camaraderie was also one of the things Rachel looked forward to when returning to volunteer for a second summer: "This is what I love to do, and I've made great friends along the way!" When asked what her favorite part of the camp was, she replied, "I have to choose just one?!"
Nana's favorite part was "seeing how the kids could develop better skills over the summer. I think they really did get better!"
Saul, on the other hand, said, "Seeing the program change from when I was a camper; it's really cool to see."
The interactions between these high school volunteers and elementary aged campers have been interesting to watch! By the last week of camp, Saul walked the campers from his neighborhood home day after day because their mom works in the evening. And he was invited to this neighbor’s family cookout!
Nana has become a bit of a soccer legend in these parts, counting down the days until he can follow in fellow alum Josselin's footsteps in the Nike Chance Challenge. He now has 40 young campers rooting for him all the way!
Rachel says she can't wait to come back next summer, even though the kids still remind her of that time she fell on her face during soccer practice.
To the high school students who volunteered their summers full of pool days and beach trips to make our camps the best they could be: I will always find your commitment inspiring.
To all of our volunteers this summer: we extend a gracious and sincere thank you in the form of a very, very high-five!.
When the bus pulled curbside and the expansive fields came into view, the Moten Panthers’ eyes got real big. So this was what a college campus looked like! From the moment I met the 10 students outside of their elementary school, their excitement about the day’s forthcoming events was evident. When I told them the DC SCORES Jamboree! was taking place at a college, it reached another level. Then we arrived at Trinity Washington University on Michigan Avenue, where hundreds of kids were spilling out of buses and walking toward a large grassy area which would host dozens of soccer games and other activities. The Panthers and over 800 other DC SCORES students took part in the 17th annual Jamboree! Saturday, the culminating event of the spring season. They were joined by hundreds of parents, community members, volunteers and a host of partners who helped make the action-packed day possible. I had the task of filling in as Moten’s coach for the day, but, really, it was an easy job — how could they not have fun playing soccer, running relay races and getting free stuff all while jamming out to DJ RBI’s beats? We began the day by watching the City Cup elementary school championship games, as the Bancroft boys defeated Howard Road Academy and the Burrville girls won their second straight Cup over Brightwood. It was a great opportunity to give pointers to the excited Panthers, who ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ after a series of incredible goals by Bancroft. On the upper fields, Paul Public Charter School won both the boys and girls middle school tournaments, with the MacFarland Middle School boys posting a very impressive second-place showing out of 14 teams. Meanwhile, the Panthers were getting antsy — how could I blame them? — so we waltzed down the grassy hill to the activities area, where several partners of DC SCORES were stationed. Our first stop was at The Century Council table, where the students picked up some sporty green or blue sunglasses and shoulder bags that would prove to be incredibly useful throughout the day. Third-grader Cayla sweet-talked her way into a pair of green AND blue sunglasses. After stuffing books from the First Book table into their bags, the students stopped by the American Diabetes Association station and picked up pedometers that quickly had them running in stance — accumulating those steps. 100 … 200 … 500! How cool it was to move! We then moved to the 826 DC table, where the students showed off their self-expression. Their task was to create a group story in a minute drawing pictures with crayons. As the seconds ticked off and the paper was passed along, the excitement level rose. But the group of girls beat the buzzer in illustrating a story about an ice cream cone party. Just minutes later, the ice cream theme continued as the students impressed the Rotaract Metro DC volunteers during the “ice cream cone” relay — racing back and forth with a soccer ball balanced atop an orange cone, no hands allowed. After three races, it was time to switch stations — but not stop racing. We joined an enthusiastic, fun-loving group from Volkswagen Group of America for a team hula hoop relay. The 10 Panthers made a circle, held hands and were tasked with wiggling a hoop around the circle without breaking their bond. First try: 39 seconds. Second try: 34 seconds. They couldn’t quite get down to half a minute, but it was still the perfect activity to create a unity for the soccer games that loomed. After one more relay — this one the summer-camp favorite “sponge relay” that ended with the students chasing down the volunteer from The Kiwanis Club of Washington, DC, and dumping on him the bowl of water — we headed back up the hill. (We didn’t quite have the time to stop by the Penya Barcelonista shooting station, where Penya volunteers and special guest Britt McHenry of ABC-7 were giving pointers as students practiced shooting soccer balls into a target net, or the Starbucks arts and crafts booth.) It was game time. As part of the Jamboree!, each elementary and middle school team plays a handful of games against schools from across the city. My assistant coach Avery and I didn’t know what to expect from the Panthers, having not coached them before, but by the end of the afternoon we knew they had made great strides during the season and day.
This was only the second year of DC SCORES programming for Moten, a school in Ward 8 where kids traditionally would never play soccer. But I could immediately tell that several members of our group had picked up the game quickly. Against Garfield, Caleb established himself as an offensive threat, dribbling the ball down the field and finding the net. Jaquel, meanwhile, made a series of saves in net during the 3-0 victory. Our game against Brightwood was a learning experience, as they are one of the biggest, most talented teams in DC SCORES’ elementary school league. After a few goals, the frustration was mounting, and I took Caleb aside after he yelled at a pair of teammates. “I need you to be a leader,” I said to him. “Encourage your teammates. Show them the way.” An hour later, after a delicious and healthy wraps lunch provided by DC Central Kitchen, we completed the action-packed day with a game against Arts and Technology Academy. Immediate signs of progress were evident. Caleb shared the ball on several occasions, passing to Jaquel for a pair goals. Little Darryl, by far the smallest kid of the bunch, moved the ball up the field with no fear despite going against kids twice his size. Cedric, who had asked to play goalie during the Brightwood game, confidently protected the net. And while they weren’t used to playing with boys, the girls on the field — Cayla, Deasija, NaLiyah and Jamaree — attacked the ball with reckless abandon and improved at working together with the boys, and vice versa. With each goal her team scored, Nyjha, who had bruised her knee against Brightwood and had a bag of ice on it, smiled a little bit more and forgot the pain, instead enjoying her team’s success. Then, just like that, we were back on the bus, heading back to school. The day had flown by, a blurr of balls kicked, pictures drawn, the team dancing the cha-cha-cha, and many smiles. Time had gone so fast, we never made it to the popular facepainting booth, but there wasn’t too much complaining. Or maybe everyone was just too tired for that. Five minutes into the ride, I glanced next to me, and Darryl was passed out, slumped against the window (I would have to shake him when we arrived back at school). Minutes later, Cayla was in a similar position in the seat in front of me. I asked Deasija what her favorite part of the day was. “The sponge race,” she replied without hesitating. A few others echoed her sentiment. Clearly, the Jamboree! had offered so much more than just soccer, which had been the only topic of discussion during the morning bus ride. “I’m gonna sleep when I get home,” Cedric said as we neared the school. “Me too,” I agreed. The Jamboree! had tired us all out, the way any action-packed event should. And the Panthers’ pedometers could prove just how active we had all been.
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