DC SCORES has relaunched the Youth W.O.R.D. Project, an initiative to support young spoken word artists in Washington, DC. DC SCORES, which serves more than 3,000 District kids through its soccer, poetry, and service-learning programs, revamped the project after two years of pandemic disruption.
Youth W.O.R.D. offers enhanced writing and professional development programming to poet-athletes with a passion for poetry and performance, especially for those who have aged out of regular DC SCORES programs or transferred to a school without a DC SCORES program.
“Poet-athletes with a flair for soccer have long had pathways to develop in the sport through our partnerships with organizations like D.C. United, Bethesda Soccer Club, and Open Goal Project. Now, through Youth W.O.R.D., our students who really resonate with the poetry aspect of our programming have similar opportunities to advance their writing and even begin to build a spoken word career,” said Tatiana Figueroa Ramírez, Associate Program Director of Creative Writing at DC SCORES.
Youth W.O.R.D. will complement regular poetry programming offered to all DC SCORES participants. Photo: Aya Takeuchi.
Youth W.O.R.D. participants attend weekly workshops exploring a range of topics geared toward their development as spoken word artists. Recent sessions have focused on incorporating movement into performance, venue etiquette, and negotiating artist contracts.
Youth W.O.R.D. poet-athletes have also capitalized on a new partnership with DC cultural hub Busboys and Poets. Youth W.O.R.D. will hold practice sessions at Busboys and Poets locations during the upcoming spring season and Youth W.O.R.D. alumna Yanina Chicas performed her original work at Busboys and Poets Columbia’s October festival, Books in Bloom. Busboys and Poets CEO Andy Shallal is also serving on the host committee for Our Words Our City, a DC SCORES youth poetry showcase at which Youth W.O.R.D. participants will perform.
Youth W.O.R.D. alumna Yanina Chicas performs at Our Words Our City in February 2020. Photo: Cody Cervenka.
“Our curriculum and poetry slams do a great job of introducing poetry and performance to our poet-athletes but, by working alongside spaces like Busboys and Poets, our poet-athletes get a chance to experience more of DC’s vibrant arts community,” said Figueroa Ramírez. “Busboys has been a foundation for many poetry careers, so it’s beautiful to see how our poet-athletes will be integrated into that community.”
Youth W.O.R.D. Project currently has 20 students signed up for this season, which begins February 4. Staff hope that the initiative will eventually expand to include more students.
“Youth W.O.R.D gave me a space to grow as a poet and professional; it’s given me more opportunities than I can account for,” said Zarea Boyde, a Program Coordinator and poetry specialist at DC SCORES. “I hope the program will expand for others so that more poet-athletes can have some of the same opportunities that I had.”
Youth W.O.R.D. alumna Jermoni Benson says that the skills she developed through the Project are useful in her pre-med Biology studies in college. Photo: Cody Cervenka.
Youth W.O.R.D. has already paid dividends for participating young artists. “Youth W.O.R.D has made me an observant and passionate student artist,” said Jermoni Benson, who completed the program this summer before beginning her studies in Biology in a pre-medical track at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Benson continued, “I often find myself thinking back to the workshops that we’ve done to find inspiration in my studies but also when it comes to approaching new ideas and people.”