This story is part of a series celebrating poet-athlete impact in the District and DC SCORES’ Spring Day of Giving campaign. Learn more about the campaign and donate here.
Seaton Elementary School sits on the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and 10th Street in Northwest DC, overlooking the pristine turf fields of the nearby Benjamin Banneker High School. Every day, the high school pitches brim with pick-up soccer teams, but on Thursdays, the rough grass field at Seaton becomes the neighborhood’s soccer hub as DC SCORES poet-athletes and their families gather for their weekly gamedays.
There’s a lot of demand for the Seaton pitch. The school has both Junior and Elementary SCORES teams that need the field for practice and games. What’s more, the field also serves as an extension of the playground and, since Seaton does not have a school gym, hosts physical education classes for the wider school community.
Space can be limited so, as part of their DC SCORES service-learning project, the Seaton DC SCORES team is taking action to rectify the situation. In a collaboration with the US Soccer Foundation and Design FC, Seaton Stinger poet-athletes are creating a brand new soccer mini-pitch at the school, which will be built this summer.
The new pitch will be enclosed, with lockable storage and lighting so Seaton students can play safely into the evening. And a hard-court surface means students can use the facility even in inclement weather. “Right now, if it’s raining or something like that and the grass is wet, we can’t play on [the current field] but now it’s gonna be possible that we can still play,” explains Johan, a third-grader on the team.
The facility will also create a community hub that reflects the close-knit community at Seaton by incorporating the students’ DC SCORES poetry and images into the design. “Our students are personalizing our mini-pitch,” says Seaton DC SCORES Coach Fabiana Duarte. “We’re going to have a profile to show the diversity of our kids.”
The Seaton team poses with their 2022 Westside Poetry Slam trophy in front of their current field. Photo: Brian Anderson.
“Safe and Secure”
Safe Place to Play Mini-Pitches is a project developed by the US Soccer Foundation, which is committed to building 1,000 new mini-pitches across the country by 2026. The Seaton project was announced by the Foundation as a part of the MLS All-Star Game, which will be played at Audi Field in July.
When the Foundation and Design FC approached the Seaton team, the squad immediately knew they wanted to incorporate the mini-pitch design process into their service-learning project. Each spring, poet-athletes at every participating DC SCORES school create and execute a service-learning project focused on the topics they wrote about in their poetry during the fall season.
Throughout the spring season, Seaton poet-athletes participated in workshops with Design FC, an afterschool program that empowers students to learn more about visual design and work together to create unique products for their soccer teams.
The team’s goal was to ensure that the mini-pitch served the entire Seaton community by creating a safe outdoor space to play after-school. “Sometimes the park isn’t safe, there’s been shootings up there,” says 5th-grader Zoe. “We want something that’s safe, with parents around, people around to make sure it’s safe and secure.”
Seaton DC SCORES Coaches Jarreau Barnes (left), Fabiana Duarte (right), and Terrence Chavis (not pictured) have been working with poet-athletes to incorporate their poetry into the mini-pitch design. Photo: Brian Anderson
A Celebration of Community
Though the Seaton team will use the mini-pitch for their practices and game days, the facility will also be available to all Seaton students who want to play soccer. This community development aspect is one of the most appealing parts of the project for the students. “I feel happy to work on this because when we grow up and come back with our kids to DC SCORES we’ll know how much we miss it and how good we did the hard work,” says 4th-grader Jefferson Contreras Salvador.
Long-term impact is an important pillar of the DC SCORES service-learning program and one that the Seaton students take seriously. “Everyone is going through challenges in life,” says 3rd-grader Hana. “I think we should help people in need because we may have a lot and they might not.”
The mini-pitch is designed to be durable, and the Seaton facility will be used by generations of students at the school. That lasting legacy made it important for the team to put their own unique stamp on the project.
“When I think about this school, I really think about diversity,” says Coach Duarte. “All kinds of people from all walks of life are here and it’s really celebrated.”
Jefferson, West, Johan, and Jeremiah of the Seaton Boys team pose with their 1st place trophy. Photo: Brian Anderson.
To reflect that diversity in their design, poet-athletes incorporated lines from the team’s iconic poem “Seaton’s Got That Sauce”, which won the squad first place at the 2022 DC SCORES Westside poetry slam. The piece is a proud showcase of the multitude of ethnicities and identities held by members of the team and features lines in Amharic, Spanish, and English.
“It feels good to celebrate [diversity],” remarks Zoe. “It doesn’t matter what country they’re from or the color of their skin, you should let everyone play.”
Being part of a legacy that brings the joy of soccer to more kids is one of the things that makes being part of the Seaton team so meaningful, says 3rd-grader Jeremiah. “I know when I’m older and I come back to Seaton and see another kid on the little mini-pitch, I’ll know that that right there, we made that,” he explains. “I love my sport.”