Poet-Athletes and DC SCORES Partners Team Up for the Planet

3-74d04c.png Poet-athletes from schools across the DC SCORES program have been working with various local partners to make an impact on the environment.

This story is part of our SCORES Community series, focusing on how members of the SCORES community are having an impact on D.C. through soccer, poetry, and service. Become part of our movement in Poet-Athlete City by supporting our programs today.

This spring, poet-athletes across the District teamed up with DC SCORES partners for a very important mission: greening their local environment.

“We need to keep our Earth clean and nice so animals won’t die and our air is better,” says Patricia, a fifth-grade poet-athlete at Raymond Elementary School, who has been working with her DC SCORES teammates and partners Pepco and D.C. United to raise awareness about energy and pollution among her school community.

Raymond is just one of numerous schools in the DC SCORES program taking on environmental issues as part of the nonprofit’s spring service-learning curriculum. DC SCORES serves more than 3,000 kids through its soccer, poetry, and service-learning programs offered during out-of-school time in D.C. public and public charter schools.

Through the organization’s award-winning model, young people build powerful teams on the soccer field, identify the issues they care about through poetry, and take action on those issues through a collective service-learning project.

Finding solutions to D.C.’s environmental challenges remains an important issue for DC SCORES participants: the topic was a dominant theme at last year’s poetry slams. Now, teams of poet-athletes across the city are working together, many with the help of DC SCORES partner organizations, to make their own impact on the District’s natural resources.

1-3baf72.png Poet-athletes at Thomas and Van Ness elementary schools took a field trip to D.C.’s Aquatic Resources Education Center as part of their service-learning project.

Going Green With The Sky Blues

Though Neval Thomas Elementary and Van Ness Elementary are located on opposite sides of D.C.’s Anacostia River, poet-athletes from both schools are working together on the same issue: increasing their communities’ access to the iconic waterway.

Throughout its history, the Anacostia has represented many of the forces shaping life in the District. From the river’s role as the ancestral homeland of the Nacotchtank people to becoming a site of bloody settler colonist conquest and toxic industrial dumping ground, the Anacostia has often reflected the tension between the needs of those living along its banks and the demands of the powerful institutions controlling access to the river.

But, in recent decades, the Anacostia has become symbolic of something else: community power.

Beginning in the 1980s, community leaders and groups organized fundraisers, clean-ups, and infrastructure projects to attempt to restore the river to its former glory and once again become a resource for its adjacent communities.

Thanks to a partnership with Manchester City F.C. and Xylem, poet-athletes at Thomas and Van Ness are becoming the latest generation of water advocates to take up the cause.

2-13955f.png Thomas poet-athletes took a book trip with the Anacostia Riverkeepers to learn more about aquaculture on the Anacostia River.

For the past year, the students have been participating in the WASH Football Series, an initiative led by the Premier League team and water technology company to educate young people about water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

Led by trained “Water Heroes” — including Washington Spirit defender Anna Heilferty and DC SCORES program staff members Brian Anderson, Saede Eifrig, and José Granados — poet-athletes learn about important water issues through coaching sessions, field trips, and community events with organizations including D.C. Water, Conservation Nation, and Anacostia Waterkeepers.

By understanding the water resources on their doorstep from an early age, young people become future stewards of the water and advocates for the river in their communities.

“It’s important for people not to pollute water around us by throwing trash in our rivers,” says Tariq, a poet-athlete at Thomas. “Water is important to all.”

“The water project has made our poet-athletes more aware of their community environment. I’ve seen them with their friends in the bathroom encouraging them not to play in and waste water,” says Chrystal Puryear, a DC SCORES coach at Thomas.

She adds, “The service-learning projects over time help them focus on their community and it starts their activism and their awareness of how they can help the community get better.”

5-bc46ce.png Manchester City F.C. VIPs, including mascot Moonchester, visited Thomas Elementary at the end of last season for a celebration of their work on the WASH curriculum.

“Just Amazing”: Working With Pepco and D.C. United

Across the city in Northwest D.C., poet-athletes at Raymond Elementary have been learning about another important environmental resource: energy. The squad picked the topic to capitalize on the team’s longstanding partnership with Pepco, a utility company that provides electric power to D.C. and neighboring communities in Maryland.

Pepco has sponsored DC SCORES programming at Raymond since 2022, thanks to the company’s multi-year deal with DC SCORES official community partner D.C. United. Pepco covers Raymond’s DC SCORES programming expenses, such as coaching stipends, uniform and writing supplies, and transportation costs for poet-athletes on the team.

This year, Pepco took their partnership to a new level, with Pepco staff supporting Raymond’s service-learning project through interactive learning sessions and events.

For instance, when Raymond poet-athletes were researching their energy topic, staff from Pepco’s power team visited the school to demonstrate the systems and operating procedures the company uses to provide power to almost 900,000 customers.

4-e05eb3.png D.C. United star Jared Stroud joined Raymond poet-athletes at their Earth Day celebration with D.C. United and Pepco.

Poet-athletes then applied what they learned about energy and other environmental issues to host a school-wide learning event on Earth Day on April 24. Older students on the team educated their younger peers by reading them books with an environmental theme and hosted a soccer session for classmates, with a surprise appearance from D.C. United midfielder Jared Stroud adding some star power to their wider environmental message.

“Working with Pepco and D.C. United has been amazing. The Pepco events have been so informative and interactive and it’s been just amazing for the kids to interact with a professional player,” says Raymond DC SCORES coach David Petersen.

The DC SCORES service-learning curriculum provides more than just an opportunity to learn and advocate around a certain topic, adds Petersen. The DC SCORES program is creating young leaders who will serve their communities well into the future, he says.

“Service learning for me personally is one of my favorite parts of DC SCORES. It’s exciting to see them grow and share things about how they can help their community,” Petersen says. “To have that experience and that access to helping your community and really take ownership of it, they love it.”

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