April 27, 2020

From at-home poetry challenges to live events, this DC nonprofit keeps kids active and engaged

DC SCORES uses poetry and sports to give kids the confidence they need to succeed. This creative approach to teaching helped them adapt in light of the disruption caused by COVID-19.

D.C. third grader Jerry is one of the youngest DC SCORES spoken word poets. His performance will be featured in #OurWordsOurCity, a virtual event Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m. EDT. RSVP to watch the event live here.

Over 1 billion young people are currently experiencing a disruption like nothing they–or anyone–has experienced before. In an instant, their ability to go to school, see their friends, and participate in extracurricular activities ended. The COVID-19 crisis did only interrupt classroom learning but also created a sense of isolation that could spread more widely and quickly than the pandemic itself.

We cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.

Belonging is a basic human need, especially for young people who are still developing the mental resiliency skills they need to process the massive changes going on around them. The loss of connection and sense of belonging can trigger an avalanche of emotions–fear, anxiety, loss–all of which can have undesirable consequences and lead youth down a path of disengagement and increased risk. It is vital that youth-service organizations are there for the kids who need us most, at a time when they need us most.

Since its founding 25 years ago, DC SCORES poet-athletes are taught that they belong, that they are connected–to their teammates, coaches, school, and community—and that they can overcome any adversity with help from their team. DC SCORES offers at-risk kids in the Washington, D.C., area after-school soccer and academic enrichment opportunities, delivered by poetry: kids compete on the soccer pitch and in spoken word competitions. In short: DC SCORES creates neighborhood teams that give kids in need the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life. Nationally, a dozen North American cities have an America SCORES affiliate, creating a network that serves over 13,000 kids.

So, while world circumstances are changing rapidly, our mission remains the same: provide a supportive team for every D.C. child who needs one. For many kids here, being part of a DC SCORES team is their lifeline, one they need now more than ever. While nothing can replace in-person human contact, we have launched SCORESatHome to help bridge the gap. With new content daily–interactive exercises connected to our core program elements of soccer and poetry, video tips from SCORES coaches, and live online program sessions–SCORESatHome continues our mission of bringing DC SCORES to where kids are. At the same time, we are preparing to resume in-person programs the day school re-opens, whether that’s next month or later this year.

School closures have not stopped us from strengthening bonds of belonging and reinforcing connectivity every day. We are checking in, we are moving content online, and we are working hard to stay connected with the youth we serve and building new forms of virtual engagement to keep them engaged mentally and physically. We are making sure that each and every young person we serve–over 3,000 throughout Washington, D.C.–knows that they are not alone and they will not be forgotten. That they belong.

And SCORES is working hard to stay engaged in the greater community too, whether that’s through a fun “At Home Poetry Challenge” kicked off by Washington Spirit legend Joanna Lohman; a series of skills videos from USMNT player Tyler Boyd; a documentary film about Soccer in the City, a national soccer coaches summit; or a “live” poetry movie watch-party and interactive event, Our Words Our City Live, DC SCORES is working tirelessly (well, sometimes tiredly, to be honest!) and surprisingly seamlessly with a combination of Zoom, Slack, Google and other work-from-home technology. We’re keeping things moving and adapting to the times to be ready for what comes next and–most of all–to continue serving our kids.

We’re all living a life no one could have envisioned. But this time will pass. So while we prepare for what comes next, we’re also trying to focus on today: to make sure our volunteers feel appreciated; our coaches feel supported; and–most of all–our kids feel like they still have a team. They still have a support system and still belong to something bigger than themselves, even if that doesn’t look today what it looked like just seven short but life-changing weeks ago.

Join DC SCORES for the video premiere of #OurWordsOurCity Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m. EDT! This virtual event will include incredible performances from professional spoken word artists and talented youth. RSVP here.

Michael Holstein

Michael Holstein


Michael Holstein began his career by lying his way into a movie producing job right after college. He later went legit, working in marketing on films such as The Rock and Independence Day and writing for HBO’s The Wire. After earning his law degree, Michael went on to oversee Business Affairs for WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s largest public television producers, working on the business and production of hundreds of shows, including In Performance at the White House, PBS NewsHour, Finding Your Roots, and the documentaries of Ken Burns. As President and Chief Content Officer for The Content Farm, Michael has developed, curated, directed and produced award-winning content for cable, digital, linear TV, and social media platforms, and placing shows on networks including Bravo, Ovation, Amazon, and Travel Channel. Among many honors, his 2017 series Live at 9:30 was shortlisted for a Producer’s Guild Award; he received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Media Arts in 2019; and his most recent film, Soccer in the City has been selected for numerous festivals and won awards including Best Video from the United Soccer Coaches Conference. Michael is also the Director of Communication for DC SCORES and Head of Content for America SCORES.

Michael was a communications major at The University of Miami, received his law degree from Catholic University, and taught The Business of Entertainment at UCLA. Michael is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, the Grammys, and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
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