The Best Moments of 2021

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As the start of a new year approaches, this time offers a unique opportunity to look back on what the soon-to-be old year brought for DC SCORES.

While we all continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can also recognize the successes and uplifting moments that 2021 brought as well. One thing that’s been constant is DC SCORES’ mission of creating neighborhood teams that give kids the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.

Our biggest success this year is without a doubt returning to in-person programming for the over 3,000 kids that we serve in D.C. annually. Distance-learning provided unique opportunities that we didn’t consider previously, but having kids reunited with their teammates and coaches is without a doubt what brings the most joy for our poet-athletes.

We aren’t sure what 2022 will bring, but we’re optimistic about the future and DC SCORES will continue working hard for kids in the District.

From December 20-31, join us in counting down our 10 favorite moments of 2021 (in no particular order)!

10. New Team

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2021 brought in a lot of changes to the makeup of the DC SCORES core staff. For many, staff changes can be unsettling and at times even scary, but this opportunity to grow lets us bring in amazing additions to the team.

In March, former DC SCORES Executive Director, Bethany Henderson, announced she would be stepping down as CEO for the organization and we shared that longtime staff member, Katrina Owens, would be the new Executive Director. In addition to Katrina’s announcement, former Chief Program Officer Sean Hinkle, moved into the role of Chief Operating Officer.

The movement in leadership offered an exciting opportunity to grow our program team and bring on some incredible additions to the team. In the summer, native Washingtonian Brandy Tyson became the new Chief Program Officer, bringing in more than two decades of experience as a public school educator and principal to the role. Jason Gross, also a native Washingtonian, joined DC SCORES as the Senior Director of Soccer and Operations.

We are ecstatic to have Desara Korreshi and Jose Granados on our team this year as Program Fellows through Up2Us and keep Jewel Christian as a full-time team member after serving as a fellow for two years.

The writing component of our programming also made tremendous strides with the addition of Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez as the new Associate Program Manager for Creative Writing. Tatiana is a poet that has worked with DC SCORES previously as a teaching artist, a host, and community organizer with extensive experience working specifically in the non-profit and education sectors.

While our office staff had great team member additions, we also have to recognize the additions to our Board of Directors that have joined our team as well, including Washington Spirit President of Business Operations and D.C. United legend, Ben Olsen; D.C. United President of Business Operations, Danita Johnson; Busboys and Poets CEO and Founder, Andy Shallal; Clark Construction Group Vice President, Harry Stevenson; and former At-Large Councilmember and Arent Fox Partner, David Grosso.

9. DC 2026

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We’re excited to be a part of the DC 2026 movement to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup™to DC!

The DC games from the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ launched a “Poet-Athlete Generation.” Funds from the tournament launched the soccer-for-youth-development organization, DC SCORES across our city, which expanded as America SCORES across the continent.

Today, America SCORES works with well over 10,000 Poet-Athletes each year at hundreds of schools across 11 cities in North America. Through its unique and award-winning combination of soccer, poetry, and service-learning, America SCORES reaches students through their natural love for the game and empowers them to share their voices and perspectives via written and spoken poetry and to make their communities safer and more beautiful through service-learning initiatives.

2026 FIFA World Cup™ will enable DC SCORES to reach the thousands of DC schoolchildren still waiting for a team and will help America SCORES expand into new host markets and reach over 200,000 kids by 2030.

As an official benefactor of this World Cup bid, we were very excited to be a part of the FIFA and US Soccer delegation tour in September. Our Senior Advisor of Arts & Culture, Charity Blackwell, also had the opportunity to showcase a little bit about our poetry programming by performing her incredible poem, “United.”

8. Poetry Slam

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Early on during the fall season, DC SCORES made the decision to make the annual Poetry Slam a virtual event to ensure everyone’s well-being. Our main goal was to make this virtual affair a memorable event for our poet-athletes and coaches.

We wanted to honor the creative and supportive essence of the Poetry Slam so we maintained the Slam format of kids performing with their teams and sharing group and individual performances. The Poetry Slam is all about celebrating the hard work our kids put into their performances and we knew it was crucial to keep kids’ voices at the forefront of this special event.

Our plan involved having each school team submit a video recording of their group and individual performance. During the season we sent tripods and special lights to every single one of our poetry teams and trained our coaches on video recording best practices.

We wanted the best of the best to judge the performances so we reached out to some of our incredible poetry specialists to serve as expert judges, including Jael Benjamin, Miss Kianne Ink, and Jennifer Eden.

The end result was three individual Poetry Slam videos – Westside, Eastside, and Middle School – all compiled and edited by expert video editor, Joshua Freeman.

Lastly, each of our school partners hosted their own individual Poetry Slam watch parties. DC SCORES created special ‘watch party kits’ with snacks, swag, and goodies for every team to enjoy during their watch party on December 14th. We even secured special guests to surprise the winning teams with their trophies, including Paige Nielsen and Ben Olsen from the Washington Spirit, Donovan Pines from D.C. United, and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.

It would have been amazing to be in-person for the Poetry Slams but these individual watch parties were just as incredible and showcased the safe and brave spaces DC SCORES helps create for kids all over the city. If you want to see some amazing performances – check out the performance from back-to-back Eastside Poetry Slam champions, Kimball Elementary School in Ward 7.


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October 23rd wasn’t just a big day at The Fields at RFK Campus for our poet-athletes, but also for many of our adult supporters. After a full day hosting Fall Frenzy, it was time for our annual DC SCORES Cup in the afternoon.

DC SCORES Cup (est. 2003) is one of the largest corporate charity soccer tournaments in the country. For the first time in a decade, the tournament moved from Maryland back to DC proper, and we welcomed the exciting addition of District Sports as the official tournament operators.

Over 400 participants and 28 teams made up a fantastic event that raised over $130,000 which will help us get more and more of our kids back on the pitch and the poetry stage.

The day wouldn’t have been possible without District Sports running the tournament, Kam and 46 and Food Over Everything feeding everybody, Events DC and DC 2026 hosting our game watch, and Atlas Brew Works for making sure that win or lose, every player had a cold drink waiting for them at the end.

A very special shout out to all the participating teams, especially the tournament winners: Venable, Crowell & Moring, Grant Thornton, JP Construction, and World Bank!

6. SCORE Awards

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Due to the pandemic, we were forced to cancel our SCORE Awards in 2020, but this year we brought the SCORE Awards back in a hybrid format. The SCORE Awards is an annual DC SCORES celebration of our coaches and volunteers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The 8th annual SCORE Awards celebration took place in-person at Hill Prince for those that felt comfortable and wanted to reunite with their fellow coaches and DC SCORES supporters, but also streamed via Zoom for those joining from home.

This year, three coaching teams and 16 individuals received awards recognizing their hard work for making this program possible. As a special token of appreciation, each award recipient received a customized plaque and customized D.C. United jersey.

See below for the award winners.

Kennedy Award for Commitment

  • Catherine Coulter – KIPP DC: KEY Academy
  • Darlene Holbrook-Jones – LaSalle-Backus Elementary School
  • Nathaniel Wallace – KIPP DC: WILL Academy

Mingo Roberts Coaching Excellence Award

  • Mariann Gallo – HD Cooke Elementary School
  • John Guzman – Bancroft Elementary School
  • Jennifer Schroeder – Truesdell Elementary School

Rookie of the Year Award

  • Fatima Baig – Marie Reed Elementary School
  • Catherine Heisey – Ida B. Wells Middle School

Teaching Artist Award

  • Sherri Chandler – Browne Education Campus
  • Jacob Mayberry – Jefferson Middle School Academy
  • Marjan Naderi – Bancroft Elementary School

Barbara Klausner Professional Development Award

  • Terrance Turner – Brightwood Education Campus

Chris Richardson Community Service Award

  • Katherine Koleski – KIPP DC: WILL Academy
  • Washington Spirit

Carl Cohen Community Service Award

  • Tchad Moore
  • Steve Brown

Teamwork Award

  • Amidon-Bowen Elementary School
  • Barnard Elementary School
  • Raymond Elementary School

We have to give a special shoutout again to Hill Prince for hosting our in-person guests and Little Sesame for providing food for all of our guests, both in-person and at home!

The impact DC SCORES has on kids in DC is achievable because of the coaches, volunteers and supporters that make it a reality. Thank you coaches for your endless amount of love, patience and commitment to DC SCORES poet-athletes!

5. D.C. United

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It’s impossible to look back during these ‘best of’ yearly lists and not mention our official community partner, D.C. United. During a year that was filled with ups and downs, we’re thankful for D.C. United’s continued support.

As D.C. United welcomed fans back to Audi Field during their home games this year, they also welcomed back our poet-athletes to Section 138, in partnership with Screaming Eagles. Every home game, teams of DC SCORES poet-athletes had the opportunity to cheer on the black-and-red thanks to this dedicated section at Audi Field where kids can enjoy access to professional soccer games.

Besides D.C. United opening the gates of Audi Field for our poet-athletes during home games, we were also able to host other incredible events at their stadium. In October, we hosted our annual fundraiser celebration, One Night One Goal, inside of the EagleBank Club of Audi Field. In November, some of our participating middle school soccer teams had the amazing opportunity to play on the field just like the pros during the Capital Cup Division Championship games.

Big shoutout to D.C. United players, Jon Kempin and Moses Nyeman, that came to support our participating middle school teams and assisted in the trophy presentation during Capital Cup!

In early December, we teamed up with D.C. United for the second consecutive year to donate more than 200 soccer balls of various sizes to WJLA’s Toy for Tots donation drive in College Park, Maryland.

We’re also very excited to welcome D.C. United’s President of Business Operations, Danita Johnson, to the DC SCORES Board of Directors!

4. Capital Cup

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One of the highlights of the Fall SCORES season is Capital Cup, the culminating championship games of the DC SCORES Middle School soccer leagues, in partnership with Public Charter School Athletic Association (PCSAA) and District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA), for 40 participating teams from 22 DC Public and Public Charter Schools.

D.C. United and Audi Field hosted the Division Championship games on November 12th. All of the participating teams got to experience what it’s like playing under the lights just like the professionals. The teams also had special guests cheering them on including Councilmember Janeese Lewis George (Ward 4), Councilmember Brooke Pinto (Ward 2), and Moses Nyeman and Jon Kempin from D.C. United.

Many of our participating teams also received new cleats thanks to a shoe donation that our community partner, Bethesda Soccer Club, hosted to benefit us during one of their tournaments!

Not only was it a great experience for all of the participating teams, but it was also incredible for families and school faculty to witness their teams fight for the division title and the opportunity to play the following week for the championship.

Division Champions


  • Coed: Leckie Education Campus
  • Girls: School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens
  • Boys: Cardozo Education Campus

PCSAA League

  • Coed: Paul Public Charter School
  • Girls: DC International School
  • Boys: Washington Latin Public Charter School

The Capital Cup State Championship wrapped up the season on November 19th at The Fields at RFK Campus. Each of the three games demonstrated the highest level of play from all of the teams. These moments are when teams really get to showcase the DC SCORES values of teamwork, leadership, and commitment.

Capital Cup Champions

  • Coed: Paul Public Charter School
  • Girls: DC International School
  • Boys: Washington Latin Public Charter School

As the last event of the Fall SCORES season, Capital Cup was the perfect way to end the season for all of the middle school teams.

3. Summer

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Unlike our virtual camps last summer, we were excited to return to in-person summer camps this year! While we didn’t have as many camps as we usually host or host camps as long as we typically do, it was amazing to bring back soccer and arts camps for Leckie Education Campus and Truesdell Elementary School, where the campers got to enjoy their brand new soccer field!

Both camps were open to rising 1st through 6th graders and each camp ran for two weeks. Every camp day was divided into arts programming and soccer programming. Soccer programming was appropriate for players of all experiences and consisted of fun activities that focus on a skill of the day. For arts programming, outside experts were brought in to lead sessions on different topics each week, ranging from dance, painting, drumming, playwriting, etc. Our summer SCORES camps culminated in a celebration with food, fun activities, and awards for players who displayed teamwork, leadership, and commitment throughout the week.

Additionally, we teamed up with Open Goal Project once again to host a two-week elite soccer camp to offer a higher level of training and activities for our highly skilled participants and alumni.

2. Washington Spirit

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Our official community partner (and 2021 NWSL Champions!!), the Washington Spirit really showed up big time for our poet-athletes this year.

Golden Boot winner, Ashley Hatch, organized a special “Boots from Pros” program to donate soccer cleats to many of our female poet-athletes. For many players that look up to the Spirit players as role models, receiving these boots was a very emotional moment.

In the sticky, humid days of the summer, Spirit players still prioritized coming out to our DC SCORES summer camps to spend some time and even play a little pick-up game. The summer campers at Leckie Education Campus were ecstatic when Ashley Hatch and Chinyelu Asher showed up on their last day of camp celebration.Besides showing up for summer camp, many players and their mascot PK surprised our elementary school poet-athletes at Fall Frenzy in October.

While the Spirit love the soccer side of our programming, they are also great supporters of the poetry side. During our Poetry Slam Watch Parties in December, Spirit player Paige Nielsen and President of Business Operations Ben Olsen, both made it out to Seaton Elementary School and Kimball Elementary School respectively to present the Poetry Slam winners with their trophies!

Our poet-athletes are always in awe when professional soccer players get to spend time with them and answer their many, many questions about what their experience is like. We’re extremely grateful for the Washington Spirit supporting DC SCORES during the ongoing pandemic and an amazing championship-winning season!

1. Fall Frenzy

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One of the most missed parts of our program for poet-athletes and their families was our annual events. Not only do our events offer a fun opportunity for teams to bond in a festive atmosphere, they also showcase how every poet-athlete is part of a bigger community that expands across nearly every ward in DC.

The Fields at RFK Campus hosted an array of events this season for our poet-athletes and supporters. October was a jam-packed soccer extravaganza with Junior Frenzy on October 13th for over 250 1st and 2nd graders, and Fall Frenzy on October 23rd for more than 500 3rd-5th graders from over 30 schools. Both soccer tournaments and community festivals hosted all of our elementary school teams and their families for fun-filled days that everyone could enjoy.

For Fall Frenzy, in particular, it’s impossible to talk about the success of the event without recognizing our extraordinary volunteers and supporters that showed up to make sure every field had a referee, every activity booth was enthusiastically managed, and every attendee received a meal throughout the day. Special shoutout to EagleBank (event sponsor), Bethesda Soccer Club, Penya Barcelonista Washington DC, D.C. United, Washington Spirit, and every single volunteer that made Fall Frenzy a memorable experience for our poet-athletes and families.

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