America SCORES participants compete on the soccer field, perform their poetry at numerous live and virtual events and poetry slams, and participate in service-learning projects that support their local communities.America SCORES
Growing up in Harlem, Chris Lantigua remembers falling into the wrong crowd, struggling with his homework, and having to repeat grade three.
“I was a good boy. I just let other people influence me down the wrong path,” said Lantigua, 29. “I needed that positive influence.
So he was encouraged by his older sister, who was already attending, to join America SCORES, an after-school program that uses soccer, poetry, and service-learning to engage and support underserved communities across the country.
For the first time, Lantigua was part of a team. He thrived as a “poet-athlete”. And now he’s giving back, having returned to the organization about five years ago to help with its mission to challenge the inequalities faced by at-risk youth and empower the next generation of leaders. He is the director of writing programs for America SCORES New York.
“I was so excited to come back,” Lantigua said, “and help kids like America SCORES has helped me.”
celebration of service
Since 2017, the Celebration of Service Award recognizes an organization that increases social awareness and brings about positive change through the power of sport.
2017 Homeless World Cup
2018 Peace Players International
2019 PowerPlay NYC
2020 The IMPACT team
2021 Lost Boyz Inc.
2022 America SCORES
America SCORES will receive Sports Business Journal’s Celebration of Service award at the Sports Business Awards ceremony on May 18.
The organization was founded in 1994 in Washington, D.C., by Julie Kennedy, a public school teacher who feared that her students, lacking constructive options after school, were vulnerable to gang activity, among other dangers. . Today, the organization is present in 11 cities and serves more than 11,000 poet-athletes aged 5 to 18, with 300 football teams coached by 700 coaches, in addition to 75 office workers. More than 90% of students in the program are children of color and 85% live below the poverty line.
“The program provides a safe space for those who can really use it,” said Miguel Aquino, 29-year-old co-director of America SCORES LA who, like Lantigua, was once a student in the program. At any given time, the group has at least three dozen former poet-athletes on its staff. For example, America SCORES Chicago has 10 coaches of former poet-athletes and three on their team.
The organization has had an impact even in the midst of the pandemic. In 2021, students performed more than 15,000 poems, including a live-streamed international youth poetry slam.
“A lot of students come to see us, it’s understandable, a little shy or worried [about performing]said Icy Jones, a former public school teacher who joined America SCORES earlier this year as executive director, “but these opportunities tell them their voice matters. They have a whole room full of people paying attention and clapping.
Students also totaled more than 50,000 hours of community service last year by collaborating with teammates on projects, such as beautifying the school or gardens, or making gift bags for patients at term in local children’s hospitals, to improve their local communities. Jones emphasized the importance of the team nature of the organization’s activities.
“Everything we do is team-based,” Jones said. “When they play soccer, it’s as a team. When they return to class, they work in these same teams. They carry out community outreach in these same teams. It’s kinda unique and really effective.
America SCORES operates as a central hub connecting each of its 11 affiliates. The national hub has had an average annual budget of $200,000 to $300,000 over the past five years. Each Affiliate is an independent non-profit organization. Thus, although the organization does not maintain an inter-network budget, Jones estimated the average annual network-wide budget to be between $8 million and $12 million. The average cost to provide one year of America SCORES services to a student is $1,000.
SCORES America Gallery
In Milwaukee, Kate Carpenter founded local affiliate America SCORES in 2004 with the help of a $10,000 grant from a major local foundation. Help from other foundations soon followed, along with a partnership with the local nonprofit Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club to help cover overhead costs.
“I think what’s really unique about SCORES’ resistance across the country is that even though we have the basics that we all do, we also have the autonomy to respond directly to needs of our specific community,” said Carpenter, the executive director of the Milwaukee chapter. “So each site is a little different depending on the flavor of what the communities need.”
Near the start of her tenure, one of Carpenter’s students was experiencing extreme domestic violence. But the student remained faithful to the program, although Carpenter then lost contact with her.
Recently, Carpenter received a Facebook post from the former student that included a photo of her holding a year-end journal produced by America SCORES. This one, from 2006, featured the former student on the cover.
“She was like, ‘I still have this and I still think about my time at SCORES,'” Carpenter said. “She’s 23 now, and she’s done and been through so many other things. She hasn’t been to SCORES since she was 11. So that got to me. I just thought, for me, meant something.