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Community Spotlight Q&A: DC SCORES

Our spotlight this month catches up with a longtime D.C. children’s organization, DC SCORES.

Founded in 1994, DC SCORES gives kids access to sports, service, and arts. The organization provides community-based programs that use teamwork and creativity to give kids the confidence and skills to succeed.
 
We were excited to speak with Tony Francavilla, Director of Individual Gifts & Corporate Partnerships about this great organization and its work with the children of our community. 
 
How did DC SCORES get started?
DC SCORES was founded at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan by teacher Julie Kennedy. Julie noticed that a group of her fifth grade girls were hanging out on the corner after school with nothing to do, so, being a soccer player, she asked if they wanted to learn soccer. They did, and they kept coming back. As the weather got worse and the days got shorter, she needed to find something to do with the girls outside and poetry was her art form of choice. She soon found that the trust the girls built as teammates on the field allowed them to really open up to one another in their poetry sessions. Team-led service projects were added in the spring, as the girls took some of the subjects of their poetry and the issues they faced in their neighborhoods, and set out to make a difference however they could. This combination of soccer, poetry, and service formed a true whole-child approach to development—body, mind, and soul. DC SCORES has grown into one of the largest after school programs in the city, serving over 2,500 kids across 57 sites, and it has been replicated in 12 major cities throughout the US and Canada under the network America SCORES, and serves over 10,000 kids throughout North America.
 
What areas of learning do you focus on?
All of our programmatic outcomes are aligned with three core values: TEAMWORK, LEADERSHIP, and COMMITMENT. Whether our teams are practicing soccer, working on poems, or developing service learning projects, everything ties back to these values. Our sweet spot is developing students non-cognitive or "soft skills," such as self confidence, grit, determination, and a sense of belonging. That being said, last year a third-party evaluator working with data from one of our sites determined that our program has a statistically significant effect on academic outcomes as well, including standardized test scores and graduation rates. 
 
Tell us about your programs.
Every DC SCORES season can be considered "soccer+"—fall (soccer+poetry), winter (soccer+nutrition), spring (soccer+service learning), and summer (soccer+art). The program is offered every day after school, so a typical fall week for our kids might look like this: Monday soccer practice, Tuesday writing/poetry workshop, Wednesday soccer, Thursday poetry, Friday game day. We run full-fledged soccer leagues in elementary and middle school, outfitting kids shoulders to shins and busing them to away games. Our fall season culminates with our Fall Frenzy soccer tournament and community festival, and the largest youth poetry slam in the region. Spring season culminates with Jamboree, a 2,000+ kid tournament and community festival. 
 
How do interested kids enroll?
Our program is school-based, so it is only offered at schools we currently partner with (click here for a full list of sites). The first step for interested kids and families is to see if DC SCORES is already in their school. If not, we can get in touch with school administrators to add an interested school to our waitlist (we currently have a waitlist of 20+ schools). The program is absolutely free to the students, families, and schools we serve.  
 
How can an adult volunteer with DC Scores?
We have volunteer needs throughout the year. For those with flexible schedules who are interested in recurring opportunities, we are always in need of volunteer referees and coaches on a weekly basis. For those looking for larger one-off events or group volunteer opportunities, we need hundreds of volunteers for our larger events like Fall Frenzy (10/21), Poetry Slam (11/15 and 11/16), and Jamboree (6/2). If you are interested in volunteering with us, please email Lindsey Sharp at LSharp@dcscores.org.
 
Share with us a DC SCORES success story. 
As a fundraiser, I'm not at our schools or on the field as often as our program team, but when I do get to see our kids shine I usually have the pleasure of seeing them do it in front of donors, volunteers, and other community partners. My favorite story is that of Xavier, a recent DC SCORES alum. Xavier was asked to perform an original poem at an event to kick off our new partnership with D.C. United, and when he first took the stage in front of corporate execs, professional athletes, and other VIPs, I was nervous for him. None other than Dave Johnson, the voice of DC sports, introduced Xavier and handed him the mic. I was extra nervous when Xavier handed the mic right back and politely told Dave "you don't want to give me a mic, I don't need it. You'll see." Xavier proceeded to absolutely blow away the audience—Dave Johnson included—and ever since then United has asked for a poet performance at almost every event we've done with them. You can check out a clip of Xavier's performance here.