In 1994, in Washington, D.C., a former school teacher, Julie Kennedy, began an afterschool soccer program for 15 girls who had little to do after their school days. Kennedy soon realized that the team relationships the girls built on the field translated well to other activities they could pursue during their afterschool time, such as slam poetry and community service.
With that, the DC SCORES program was born, and now has been replicated in 12 cities across the United States and Canada.
DC SCORES afterschool programming implements a unique combination of competitive soccer, slam poetry, arts enrichment, and service learning on an alternating year-round schedule. According to the Chief Program Officer, Sean Hinkle, this holistic model combined with a focus on delivering a high-quality experience allows every student to define and achieve their own version of success through the program.
“The different ways that kids can connect with one another, trusted adult mentors, and with the bigger community really sets us apart [with] many different ways for kids to find success,” said Hinkle.
The focus on quality has led to DC SCORES’ developing its own “Quality Standards” in addition to an adherence to the National AfterSchool Association’s (NAA) Healthy Eating & Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. Hinkle notes that the set-up of DC SCORES lends itself to achieving the HEPA guidelines by design.
“Our curriculum has a lot of organizational practices built in that support [social emotional learning] and integrate HEPA best practices around nutrition and physical activity,” said Hinkle. “We are lucky we are a soccer program and soccer is one of the most physically active sports you can play. Physical activity is not something we have to force our kids and coaches to do; it’s something they look forward to!”
In the past fiscal year, DC SCORES’ aggregate metrics show that participants played 247,270 hours of soccer, participated in 24,402 hours of hands-on nutrition education, and made 1,162 healthy snacks. All of this in addition to the time spent in programming where students took part in creative writing enrichment and service learning. According to Hinkle, it’s DC SCORES’ commitment to developing youth into emotionally and physically healthy community members that led in part to their implementation of HEPA standards.
“Since we began our programming back in 1994, healthy eating and physical activity have been two foundational areas of focus that are highlighted throughout our curricula, in all portions of our programs,” Hinkle said. “NAA's HEPA guidelines have provided us with evidence-based validation of the core components of our program. We have used NAA's HEPA guidelines to update our own quality standards to reflect current language and best practices related to HEPA.”
The positive impact of the program is clearly evidenced in the results from DC SCORES’ Annual Report. Of parents surveyed in the summary, 81 percent reported that their child/children were more physically active as a result of the program, while 92 percent of parents reported that their child/children felt better about him- or herself.
Hinkle attributes much of DC SCORES’ success in implementing the HEPA standards to its community-based approach.
“NAA’s HEPA guidelines require commitment from the organization, the front-line workers, the youth, the parents, and community members,” Hinkle said. “Our program is intentional in bringing these stakeholders together. We are also a small, grassroots organization so we can easily create policies, expedite implementation, and oversee the quality of such implementation.”
If you’re interested in learning more DC SCORES and getting involved with their program, you can visit their website. To learn more about out-of-school time programs that are fostering health and well-being practices for our youth, you can visit the national Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition website.