“I’ve been here so long that DC SCORES feels like family!” says Adjei Silas of her time with the nonprofit.
When Greta Adjei Silas first applied to work for DC SCORES in 2014, she was convinced she wouldn’t get the job. She was sick during the final interview and hadn’t been able to eat anything. “I’m sweating, I’m in pain, it was hot. I was leaning against the window. But, somehow, I got the job,” she recalls. “That’s the story of how I ended up at DC SCORES!”
Adjei Silas remembers her first day vividly. The nonprofit’s staff had been planning to throw a celebration for Katrina Owens, who now heads up the organization as the Executive Director, but then served as Director of Programs. Owens was expecting her first child, David, but missed the party when he arrived early.
“And now David’s eight-and-a-half, so I always remember exactly how long I’ve been at DC SCORES!” says Adjei Silas.
During her long tenure at DC SCORES, Adjei Silas — who finished her role as People and Business Operations Director this week — has learned to adapt to change and overcome obstacles when things don’t quite go to plan. Leading operations for a small but impactful nonprofit is an intensive job, and Adjei Silas has worked with every department and seen every facet of the organization’s soccer, poetry, and service-learning programs.
“I’ve gotten to float around and see how everything works and how every team works with each other,” she shares. “That’s been a really cool view.” Now, Adjei Silas is preparing to move on from DC SCORES to take up a new role as People and Culture Director at Middle Seat, a digital consulting firm that promotes progressive causes and political candidates.
“I’m so excited for my new role, but I know I will miss DC SCORES a lot,” she says. “This place holds so many special memories for me and I’ve met so many inspiring young people through DC SCORES.”
Adjei Silas has held numerous roles at DC SCORES, including supporting the organization’s major events, a role she intends to continue in a volunteer capacity.
A Career in Youth Development
Adjei Silas was drawn to DC SCORES as an organization where she could pursue her passion for youth development. During her undergraduate studies at Penn State University, she started a mentoring program for local high school students and wanted to continue working in the field after graduating.
After stints as a Site Coordinator for Kidpower, a safety education nonprofit that serves young people, and as a Community Outreach Coordinator with Maya Angelou Public Charter School, she moved into policy work with the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit that works to make afterschool programs accessible for children across the United States.
“It was really cool seeing that side of afterschool programming. Moving from very community-focused work to seeing the impact of afterschool policy nationwide opened my eyes to just how large and important afterschool programming is,” she says of her time with Afterschool Alliance.
However, while the work was fulfilling, Adjei Silas craved the hands-on experience of direct community work. “I really missed connecting with young people,” she says. “I’d heard about DC SCORES because they were just growing and growing and I saw they had a position for an Alumni Program Coordinator and so I applied.”
At DC SCORES, Adjei Silas was responsible for liaising with poet-athletes who had aged out of DC SCORES’ elementary and middle school programs to ensure that they stayed engaged with the nonprofit. “It allowed me to get back into the grassroots of a program for high schoolers,” she remarks. “It was a unique but fun challenge.”
Adjei Silas says working with DC SCORES alums, such as Yanina Chicas (pictured), has been her favorite part of working with the organization.
“The Sweetest Memories”
The role enabled Adjei Silas to work with her favorite youth demographic: high school students. “Younger students are really cute but I love working with high-schoolers because they’re at a transitional period in their life, entering young adulthood,” she explains. “Helping them navigate that time is just fulfilling.”
Adjei Silas had found the perfect position within DC SCORES, an organization that primarily caters to elementary and middle schoolers. However, just one year into the job, her role evolved. Funding changes at DC SCORES required the organization to restructure and Adjei Silas was asked to take on a new role in operations, managing the business functions of the nonprofit.
“It was a lot of learning on the go,” she admits. “I went from programs to business operations, and I’d never really thought before about what it means to run an ethical, sound operation or what it means to support the people who work there.”
Adjei Silas threw herself into the new role, learning how to write contracts, work with vendors, and develop human resources (HR) policy. She took training courses online to get up to speed on the processes required for the smooth day-to-day running of DC SCORES.
“It was a very interesting challenge for me professionally,” she shares. “But it was a pivotal part of my career and I don’t think I’d be where I am now had that shift not happened.”
Yet, while Adjei Silas’s role in the organization moved away from direct service to poet-athletes, she always maintained strong relationships with the young people who participate in DC SCORES.
In addition to her operations work, Adjei Silas supported weekly practices for the Youth W.O.R.D. Initiative, DC SCORES’ enhanced poetry program, and served on the staff organizing committee for Our Words Our City, DC SCORES’ annual youth poetry showcase.
“All the moments with poet-athletes are the ones I vividly remember,” she says. “Hanging out backstage at poetry events, getting ready, getting jitters out, all those moments are the sweetest DC SCORES memories that I have.”
Adjei Silas and DC SCORES Senior Advisor for Arts and Culture Charity Blackwell pose with poet-athlete performers at Our Words Our City.
Poetry As Community
Poetry is the aspect of the DC SCORES model that has always resonated most with Adjei Silas. “Me and sports? Not it,” she jokes. “But the poetry side? That part I really dug and connected with.”
“I’ve always been that secret emo kid who liked to write,” she adds, recalling how she performed individual poems for each of her friends as they prepared to leave their hometown after graduating high school. “You think it’s sweet? Nobody paid attention to me!” she exclaims. “But I always loved writing and words.”
In college, Adjei Silas joined poetry clubs and attended open mic nights. “They were the spaces I just always found myself going back to, those small communities,” she says. When she moved to DC, Adjei Silas found a local poetry scene that was thriving, with award-winning poets including Rasheed Copeland, Clint Smith, and Elizabeth Acevedo performing regularly at venues across the District. “Poetry in DC was just fire,” she remembers.
When Adjei Silas joined the DC SCORES staff, she was blown away by the poetry of the students who participated in the program. “You have little kids who are just beasts with words,” she says. “Poetry and writing is a way I’ve built community and I found that space again in Our Words Our City and Youth W.O.R.D.”
“I love everything that leads up to our kids’ performances,” she continues. “The practices, the relationships that are formed, the poems the audiences never hear.” It is this work, in the small, intimate DC SCORES practices where students first discover their passion for poetry, that instills the most pride in Adjei Silas.
“I’m really grateful that people felt comfortable enough to trust me with matters of the heart and be themselves around me,” she says. “They’re sharing their writing, these deep parts of themselves, so to be part of that, to be trusted in that kind of space, is a big accomplishment for me.”
Adjei Silas considers the trusting relationships she has built with poet-athletes to be her biggest professional accomplishment.
Looking to the Future
Poetry and writing have also provided an outlet for Adjei Silas, who regularly journals and writes short poems that capture fleeting moments or moods. “Poetry, for me, is an archive of myself. It’s a way to remember all the different things that I am,” she says.
As she prepares for the next chapter of her career, Adjei Silas has been looking back over her own writing and her time at DC SCORES. It is the people in the DC SCORES community who have left the biggest imprint on her memories of the nonprofit.
“Most of all, I’m going to miss being part of this team that I’ve worked with for the last eight and a half years,” she says. “I’ll miss the random check-ins with folks, the midday foolishness, the funny stuff that happens when you’re tired and unloading vans at Fall Frenzy at seven in the morning!”
However, Adjei Silas won’t be leaving those experiences behind entirely when she takes up her new job. She intends to continue to support DC SCORES in a volunteer capacity during its major events. “At this point, I’ve been here so long that DC SCORES feels like family. I can’t imagine myself leaving for good,” she admits.
From this new vantage point, Adjei Silas is excited to track DC SCORES’ upward trajectory. Unsurprisingly, she hopes that alumni and poetry programming will continue to expand even after she leaves her full-time role with the organization. “I want our poetry programming and Youth W.O.R.D. to just blow up! I want to see all sorts of cool-ass programming for our young writers,” she says.
“Our poet-athletes have gone on to become incredible people who are still connected in the community and are doing awesome things,” she says. “I want us to continue to pull them in and keep them in our space. They’re going to contribute to the success of our program.”
“I know our poet-athletes are going to achieve great things and I’m proud to be part of that legacy at DC SCORES,” says Adjei Silas. “I can’t wait to see the places they will go and watch DC SCORES go from strength to strength.”
Adjei Silas celebrates with DC SCORES colleagues at her wedding.