“I Am A Poet-Athlete”: Coach Marvin Newsome Jr On Giving Back to Youth Through DC SCORES

Untitled design (1)-5dbf0d.png Newsome joined DC SCORES in 2022 to provide extra-curricular opportunities to his students.

This story is part of the Voices of DC SCORES series exploring how young people in the District are speaking up for their communities through DC SCORES. Learn more about the series and how you can support our mission at the Voices of DC SCORES campaign page.

Coach Marvin Newsome Jr had just finished his first year of teaching when a colleague asked him a question that would change the course of his career.

“She asked what I knew about soccer,” Newsome says, recalling the moment Jennifer Schroeder, a veteran DC SCORES coach at Ketcham Elementary School, asked him to join the program.

“I replied, ‘Not much! But I am athletic, competitive, and a fast learner,’” he remembers, “and then she informed me that DC SCORES was more than just a soccer organization.”

Newsome’s interest was piqued by DC SCORES’ award-winning model that combined soccer, spoken word, and service learning. He saw the holistic program as a way to expose his students, who had few extracurricular opportunities, to a myriad of new opportunities. He signed on as a DC SCORES coach at the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

That first fall season in the program was memorable for Newsome: the Ketcham team placed second in the DC SCORES Eastside Poetry Slam. “Seeing all that hard work pay off was so fulfilling. The energy the next day was so amazing, the kids were so excited and happy,” he says.

But while bringing home the trophy remains one of Newsome’s top DC SCORES moments, he and his colleagues have always pursued something much more powerful than soccer and slam victories.

“DC SCORES is important because there aren’t many other places that allow young people’s voices or opinions to be heard,” he stresses. “The impact goes deeper than just an after-school program: SCORES teaches kids lifelong skills.”

1-0d3a6d.png Newsome helped coach the DC SCORES team at Ketcham Elementary to second place at the 2022 Eastside Slam.

Leading By Example

Known throughout the DC Public Schools system as “MJ,” Newsome became a teacher in 2021. Prior to that, he had been living in New York City, working in a field far removed from education, and looking for an opportunity to make good on a promise.

“I was born in Philadelphia, in an urban community, and I didn’t have one Black male teacher. Through my primary and secondary school years, not one. It wasn’t until college when I first saw a Black male educator,” he remarks. “I always said I would give back at some point in my career and go into the urban community and teach.”

The pursuit of his ambition to educate young people with a similar background to his own brought Newsome to DC and Ward 8, where 86% of the population is Black. After two years at Ketcham, Newsome transferred to Moten Elementary School, where he immediately signed up as a DC SCORES coach.

At DC SCORES, coaching staff can choose to deliver the non-profit’s soccer or poetry and service-learning curriculum. Newsome opted to do both.

The two sides of the model equally appeal to Newsome, who sees his own passions reflected in the program. “I am athletic, but poetry has always been an outlet for me,” he says. “Since middle school, when I was reading poems by Maya Angelou and Robert Frost, I would often disappear into my room to put my thoughts on paper.”

2-b8fb5f.png Newsome says that DC SCORES provides poet-athletes with life-long skills.

DC SCORES participants are known as poet-athletes, young people who are dedicated to becoming physically and emotionally strong and using their voices to serve as leaders in their neighborhoods. It is a moniker that Newsome proudly embraces himself.

“I am a poet-athlete, absolutely!” he says. “In order to coach students into becoming poet-athletes, I have to also exemplify that. I’m honored to develop more poet-athletes and hear how they want to impact their community.”

“We’re Poet-Athletes”

Building cohorts of poet-athletes each year takes commitment, a value Newsome instills in his students. Enthusiastic participation in all DC SCORES sessions is expected, even for students who might prefer one aspect of the program over another.

“I tell them, ‘We’re poet-athletes, and doing both soccer and poetry makes us poet-athletes,’” he says.

The approach has even the most die-hard sports enthusiasts on the team passionate about poetry. “They’ll ask, ‘Mister MJ, is today poetry practice?’ and get so excited!” he says.

Moten poet-athletes are especially looking forward to this year’s Eastside poetry slam, where they will perform three original spoken word pieces in front of a packed audience. “I don’t want to spoil the performance, but the poems our scholars prepared for this year really resonate with me,” Newsome says.

In May, Newsome was injured in a shooting at Ketcham’s school gates. This season, his Moten students chose to write poems about gun violence. “This is a major issue that’s prevalent in Southeast and other communities in the District, but it also really, really, really had an impact on me, personally,” Newsome says.

Newsome believes that providing young people with a space to engage with such heavy topics is vital. “Youth voices are just as important as anyone else’s in the community. If we don’t listen to what they have to say now, then how can we expect them to listen to others when they become the decision-makers and leaders in the community?” he asks.

5-e70868.png Newsome believes that providing young people with a space to express themselves benefits the entire community.

As a coach, Newsome says the most important thing he can do is to create “an organic experience to allow poet-athletes to take over a topic that addresses what takes place in their communities.”

Newsome describes his work as a DC SCORES coach as deeply fulfilling; it has allowed him to keep his promise to his younger self and have a transformative impact on Black youth in marginalized communities.

“DC SCORES checks every box of why I am here, what motivated me to work in this community, and how I’m able to do exactly what I set out to do,” he says. “My goal is to provide an outlet for youth, to help them express themselves. To make sure their voices can be heard.”

4-d2b987.png Newsome intends to remain a DC SCORES coach and reach more poet-athletes through the power of soccer and writing.

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