America SCORES was founded in 1994 in Washington, D.C. by a public school teacher concerned that her students, lacking constructive after-school options, were at risk of gang activity and other dangers after class. As she introduced new activities—soccer, poetry, and service learning— to her students, she found that they became more engaged in class, more physically active, and more involved in their communities. Designed as a replicable model, SCORES has grown since becoming a national organization in 1999 to impact over 13,500 students in 311 public schools in 12 cities in North America — Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Vancouver, and Washington D.C.
Originally focused on 3rd-5th graders, America SCORES' programs have expanded to meet the demands of our families and schools. With Junior SCORES, kids as young as kindergarten now get to experience the joy and power of a team, while making regular physical activity part of their life from the moment they start school. With middle school programs, our poet-athletes can maintain the daily support of their America SCORES teammates and coaches through 8th grade. Many SCORES cities now offer winter and summer programs for K-8th graders, ensuring elementary and middle school students can reap the benefits of teamwork, leadership, and commitment year-round in a safe, familiar environment, regardless of what is happening in their schools or neighborhoods. Our high school programs provide opportunities for poet-athletes to continue playing soccer or writing/performing poetry throughout their high school years, and support teenagers working towards high school graduation, finding summer jobs, and preparing for college. By supporting kids throughout their schooling, America SCORES provides the platform for students from high-poverty neighborhoods to succeed today and into the future. To date, more than 130,000 urban youth have benefited from the unique programming of America SCORES
America SCORES earned a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar in 2018.
GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. By adding information about our goals, strategies, capabilities, achievements, and progress indicators, we are highlighting the difference we help to make in the world.
Before some of the biggest star athletes in the world convened in Russia this summer for the FIFA World Cup, nine DC SCORES alumnae, represented the United States at the Street Child World Cup, and made a difference in doing so.
On the pitch, they joined over 450 young people from 24 countries around the world for an international youth soccer tournament. Off the pitch, their voices were heard, calling for the rights of millions of children at risk of homelessness worldwide.
During their time in Russia, the SCORES team attended peer-to-peer events, forums, and presentations. The featured speakers included soccer players, coaches, and community leaders. Team members, many of whom had never left the DC area prior to the trip, also got a chance to travel around Moscow during the tournament.
In their first international showing, the team placed fifth overall, and, their trip was highlighted by a victory over Mexico in penalties!
Upon returning home, the girls were honored by the D.C. City Council for representing the United States at the tournament. An excerpt from the ceremonial resolution reads:
“The players having all overcome economic challenges and triumphed in the face of adversity, are role models for the residents of the District of Columbia.”
They were not the only SCORES poet-athletes who went to Russia this summer. A few months after the Street Child World Cup, during the FIFA World Cup in June, poet-athletes and coaches from Boston SCORES traveled to Russia to attend the FIFA Foundation Festival.
The Festival focused on teaching and spreading Football3 methodology. Football3 breaks a soccer match into 3 halves and involves the young players in creating rules that are rooted in the ideas of teamwork, equality, and respect.
Our poet-athletes took full advantage of the opportunity not only to play soccer with young people from around the world, but also to start a conversation with them, and open a dialogue for social change. And, to close out their journey in Moscow, they were lucky enough to catch the Spain vs. Russia match with their coaches!
In July, America SCORES New York Program Director Zach Gomes and Senior Program Director Robert Evans went to Haiti to help launch a new soccer camp, part of a visionary international project aimed at building a sustainable village to promote the health, education and economic well-being of the people of Arcahaie, a commune just northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Zach and Robert first met with Mayor Rosemila Sainvil Petit-Frère. She had personally requested soccer organizations to run a soccer clinic for the village. This was the second year that the camp has been operated, but the first year that soccer has been added to it.
Afterwards, Zach and Robert spent a few days at the soccer camp. They enjoyed their time with the young soccer players there: playing beach soccer, swimming and eating seafood. They also worked hard to train several hours each day with the coaches who would oversee the camp. Robert shared:
“I know that our Haitian coaches will do an excellent job building rapport with their students and promoting meaningful conversation. After going through the coach training and identifying some of the community challenges that we’d like to address through soccer and dialogue, it appears that many of the challenges faced are similar to those in New York.”
America SCORES is proud to have partnered with the State University of New York’s Center for International Development, along with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Global Outreach And Love of Soccer, The Sanneh Foundation and streetfootballworld to participate in this amazing opportunity.
In March, more than 60 SCORES staff and coaches from all 12 programs convened in Washington, DC, for SCORESCon 2018. The annual conference always proves an exciting time for America SCORES staff. One attendee remarked:
“Honestly the best part of SCORESCon is getting everyone in the network to share the unique and innovative things they are doing in their city.”
“As an alumni of the program and someone who has invested a lot of my time in trying to build our alumni program, it was great to listen to other sites’ strategies in recruiting and maintaining a strong alumni network.”
That night, SCORESCon attendees broke into teams again, mixing staff from different cities, and embarked on a scavenger hunt. That event was a highlight for a lot of staff members and a great way for out-of-towners to learn a little bit about some parts of the host city.
SCORESCon attendees saved the best breakout sessions for last, launching into interactive discussions about gender equity and social media on Day 3. Concluding with a reflection, staff members began to think seriously about their takeaways from the conference. Attendees from all 12 programs left the District with a plethora of new program and curricula ideas as well as a renewed sense of focus and energy around their program’s connection to the national America SCORES network. One attendee concluded:
“We left the session with ideas that could have an impact on all SCORES sites as early as this fall.”
The team has developed greatly since the season began last fall. Coach Évora remarks,
“They have come so far in their capacity to play soccer and learn what it means to be committed to a team. They’ve grown so much, developing their skills both on the field and in the classroom.”
There have been opportunities for collaboration and demonstrating leadership too. “The older girls take leadership roles,” Évora says, explaining that the younger girls are often a little nervous about playing with fourth and fifth graders. But it all works. “The older girls support them and take initiative in other efforts as well, like continuing to practice a new skill they’ve learned after practice as a group.”
Take it from the girls themselves; fourth grader Xiomara says, “Playing on the field with all girls makes me feel confident.” Her teammate Yahayra agrees,
“I feel so positive when I play soccer with all girls.”
Back in the classroom, the girls also have discovered the power of poetry. Fourth grader Mia explains, “It helps me discover things.” Her teammate Marisol, who is in the second grade, says “Poetry is fun because when you write something you can imagine it right in front of you.”
When and where did you first join America SCORES? What do you remember from that time?
I joined DC SCORES in the 3rd grade at Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C. I vividly remember the grey jerseys we used to wear. When I started playing soccer, I was a goalie, then I became a field player. My greatest memories came from our Thursday game days when our coach, Coach Simon, would attend our games in a suit. I am a proud DC SCORES alumna; I still play soccer and I often talk to Coach Simon, my first ever coach.
“The greatest thing about DC SCORES is that they will forever remember you.”
What are you up to these days? And, how do you think that your participation in DC SCORES has influenced that?
I’m a graduating high school senior and I will be attending Georgetown University in the Fall. My participation in DC SCORES has given me a much larger network of relationships, and the opportunities both to try new things and stay engaged with my community, such as traveling to Moscow, Russia for the Street Child World Cup or helping to create the first ever girls’ Alumnae Tournament.
What was it like to go to Russia and compete alongside your fellow DC SCORES alumnae at the Street Child World Cup?
I am still friends with many of my teammates, and honestly I think the trip brought us closer. I look at these girls as sisters. The fact that we were all DC SCORES alumnae allowed us to stand and compete confidently. We all had something in common, and we were cognizant about our purpose; we knew that we were representing Washington D.C., DC SCORES, and the United States. And, we wanted to do it positively, so we approached this experience with an open mindset and a lot of energy.
Your team won the first ever DC SCORES Alumnae Tournament this Spring; how did that feel?
I am proud to say that I took a leadership role in making this happen, working alongside the marvelous Greta from DC SCORES. The tournament this year was great, because it was the first year that all-girls teams were given the chance to play with and against each other. My hope for next year is that more girls come out and play so the tournament can be even more competitive and engaging.
“The greatest piece of advice that I can offer to today’s poet-athletes is simply to have fun and not to be afraid to make new friends, or to try new things.”
Coach David Segarra has been a cornerstone member of his community long before the existence of America SCORES New York. Having grown up across the street from PS 161, Coach Segarra has taught at the school for over 10 years and has developed strong and impactful relationships with countless students.
When Coach Segarra began working with America SCORES New York four years ago, he didn’t have much soccer-specific coaching experience. But, he was eager to make a difference for his team of poet-athletes, and was open to learning from them as well.
He understands well the power of sport as a vehicle for positive youth development; the way sport can build positive self identity and how that can carry into the other aspects of a young person's life. He has established a culture of respect and positivity that sees the girls on his team take on leadership roles among their peers and instills in them a renewed sense of confidence.
Coach Segarra's ability to connect with young people and understand their lives outside of the program helps him to build an atmosphere in which every girl feels important and needed within the team. His passion for the America SCORES mission has not gone unnoticed; in the summer, America SCORES New York awarded him Coach of the Year at Jamboree!
“Overall, Coach Segarra skillfully understands and activates our program philosophy as well as the sports-based and social justice youth development strategies that we have incorporated into the curriculum. We could not be prouder to call him our coach!”
When I was a junior in college, I came home for break and picked up a copy of the Washingtonian. I read about Julie Kennedy and DC SCORES and thought to myself, “Wow! What an excellent idea, and what a cool woman.” Less than five years later, I served as the Executive Director of DC SCORES. It was an exciting time for the organization, and myself - we hosted the first SCORES Cup and started the middle school program. We also worked with soccer players on the United States National Teams like Mia Hamm, Ben Olsen, Abby Wambach, and John Harkes; many of these relationships still exist more than 10 years later.
Most importantly, I saw the impact of the program on the mind, body, and spirit. And I recognized the strength of model, to hire and train teachers from the school.
While I was at DC SCORES, America SCORES was growing across the country. For a time afterwards, I worked in Pittsburgh for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and in the Pittsburgh public schools. But then I returned to lead America SCORES as the Executive Director, and it really felt like coming home.
Having started at DC SCORES when I was 27, and now being 44 and a part of America SCORES National Board of Directors, growing up with the organization has had a huge impact on me personally and professionally. I could talk for hours about my thoughts on teamwork, leadership, and commitment, or the relationships that I formed with poet-athletes and coaches that I still have today. There is one poem that I still thoroughly enjoy to this day, but I do not know who wrote it,
“Life has ups, life has dips, at least we still have potato chips.”
After 25 years of SCORES, it's thrilling to see how the program has helped propel children across the country into successful adult lives.
streetfootballworld believes soccer has the power to change the world. America SCORES’ work proves just that. Through its innovative approach using poetry, service learning, and soccer America SCORES brings streetfootballworld’s mission to life. Alongside streetfootballworld, America SCORES has proven the capacity of collective action and the effectiveness of a network, harnessing a unified force to create change, for good.
“America SCORES is one of the leading ‘soccer for good’ organizations in the United States and we are proud to call them one of streetfootballworld’s network members. From their ability to develop young leaders on the soccer field and the poetry stage, America SCORES is creating the next generation of leaders across the USA and Canada. Their program, staff, and coaches are among the best.” - Vladimir Borkovic, Co-Founder & COO, streetfootballworld
America SCORES has been active in multiple streetfootballworld-driven programs from international exchanges, football3 trainings, LGBTQ+ workshops and more. One of the many highlights throughout our work together is America SCORES’ involvement in the FIFA Foundation Festival 2018, which saw over 300 participants from 37 countries across the globe. Program Director of America SCORES New York, Zach Gomes joined the streetfootballworld team during the Festival to deliver the young leader portion of the program.
streetfootballworld, in partnership with America SCORES and other North America and Caribbean network members, recently launched Play Proud, a coach-centered approach to making sporting spaces more inclusive for LGBTQ+ youth. streetfootballworld hopes this is just the beginning of a much closer partnership with America SCORES and looks forward to continuing to watch Play Proud grow across the region.