Fifteen. Every day when I wake up, that number flashes before my eyes. It is imprinted on my brain. It is the number of schools currently on the waitlist for programs from my youth development nonprofit DC SCORES, which recently finalized a partnership with D.C. United with the goal of serving more District youth.
DC SCORES provides free after-school programs and summer camps to low-income 3rd-8th graders across the District. Our whole-child curriculum thoughtfully integrates the art of poetry, the sport of soccer, and the civic experience of service.
In the neighborhoods and schools we work in, DC SCORES typically is the only opportunity kids have to participate in an organized team sports league. We frequently offer young children their only chance to explore the literary arts for fun and to experience performing original work on stage. We often are the first people who not only ask schoolkids living in poverty how they want to change the world, but who also give a team of kids the tools to do it.
Although DC SCORES has expanded rapidly the past five years, the demand for our programs has grown even faster.
Why? The young children DC SCORES works with face incredible challenges: hour-plus commutes to school; the responsibility of raising multiple siblings; violence on their streets; no stable home or family support structure.
We help at-risk kids stay on track by surrounding them with a supportive team of peers and committed adult mentors, giving that team the opportunity to safely and creatively express themselves through both arts and sports, and helping them experience that they can change the world around them.
You don’t have to take my word for it; instead take the words of Ingrid, Claudia, or Christian M. — all DC SCORES alumni.
A new depth of commitment
What keeps me up at night is worrying about the many more Ingrids, Claudias, and Christians out there whose schools we’re not in. Who aren’t, as Christian says, getting to be “part of something greater,” something “to look forward to every day no matter what else was going on in my life,” “something that gives me a pathway from step A to step B, a goal to achieve.”
Being able to serve all of the children who need us was a big motivator behind our recently announced long-term strategic partnership with D.C.’s Major League Soccer team D.C. United. (Read the press release.)
Although our organizations have worked together in varying capacities for years, this new, long-term partnership cements our relationship and makes it possible for us to change many more kids’ lives together than either organization could on its own.
The partnership goes far beyond simply giving DC SCORES’ poet-athletes enhanced soccer experiences and access to major league expertise (though it does that, too!). It symbolizes a new depth of commitment by D.C. United to the community. Programs previously run by D.C. United’s United Soccer Club program have been consolidated into DC SCORES, and two members of D.C. United’s leadership team have joined DC SCORES’ Board of Directors.
While D.C. United is contributing some limited up-front capital to seed this partnership, it is not really a financial transaction. The partnership’s true value to the children of Washington, D.C., is the willingness of D.C. United to leverage its brand name and corporate access to drive new levels of philanthropic investment to DC SCORES. This year, we are serving 2,000 children. Our goal: expand to 3,000 children in three short years, an objective we’ll only be able to achieve with increased support from community members throughout the District and beyond.
While the partnership is a catalyst for helping us wipe out our growing waitlist; everyone else’s continued support – and those interested in joining our team and advocating for DC children – can make it a reality.
Helping D.C.’s kids succeed on the playing field, in school, and in life is what DC SCORES is all about. We are excited by the potential of this partnership and a growing supporters base to help even more kids do just that.
DCAYA is grateful to this week's blog author, Bethany Henderson, Executive Director of DC SCORES. Want DC SCORES in your school or neighborhood? Please complete their new school application.