Last week I had the pleasure of attending America SCORES New York’s poetry SLAM! The annual competition determines which West Harlem boys and girls get to compete in the America SCORES national poetry SLAM!
While the local affair doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the national final, there’s always plenty of talented kids – and some fairly awesome judges. But before I get into that, let me first tell you a little bit about this organization, and why we’re talking about poetry SLAMs in a soccer blog.
America SCORES: Poetic Soccer
While there are a number of youth development programs that leverage soccer, America SCORES is unique in that it features poetry as a tool for fostering creative expression and a sense of self, along with the academic value of introducing the kids to this often hard to embrace literary art form. The boys and girls learn about soccer, form recreational teams, and play every other day. And when they are not playing, they explore poetry.
It may seem like on odd pairing at first, but that same sense of creative expression and individualism translates well to the game of soccer, as anyone who has watched some of the world’s greats can tell you. In fact, many argue that this sort of artistic expression on the field is what American soccer is lacking most.
But the real unifying element in the America SCORES program is teamwork. The kids are encouraged to create and perform their own poetry, on and off the pitch, but they also work on a team poem as well. These individual poems, along with the team performances, are what make up the annual America SCORES poetry SLAM!
Poetry is part of the fall curriculum at America SCORES. In the spring, the kids learn about community service. With teamwork once again featuring as a theme, each team embarks on a project that teaches them about their community – and how they can help make a difference in it. This is culminated with the annual America SCORES SHOUT Day of Action.
America SCORES NY’s Poetry SLAM!
Sixty-five elementary school children from PS 192 and PS 325 in West Harlem participated in this year’s competition. Ten girls and nine boys mustered the courage to perform their own poems and all four teams – PS 192 Girls Lucky Stars, PS 192 Boys Fire Titans, PS 325 Girls Soccer Sisters, and PS 325 Boys Grass Kickers – performed their team poems.
Mike Geddes, former BBC commentator and current head of North American partnership development for StreetFootballWorld, served as the guest emcee. The celebrity judges included Starbucks district manager Carrie Teeter, Kicking + Screening Film Festival co-founder Rachel Markus, grassroots soccer writer Cesar Diaz, and US international and New York Red Bulls forward Kenny Cooper.
Many of the poems were insightful, amusing, and inspirational. As one often finds when working with kids, several of them displayed wisdom beyond their years. In the end, four girls – Chazity L., Emely S., Ahmaade G., and Evelyn S. – and four boys – Ahmaad G., Jorge C., Jay J., and Bryan G. – were selected as winners of the individual competition. And they will represent America SCORES New York at the National Poetry SLAM! at the Apollo Theater on April 8, 2013.
If you’d like to see the kids practicing some of their poems, you can catch a glimpse here – and read some of their work as well. If you would like to support this wonderful program, you can learn more here. And many thanks to the sponsors: Ernst & Young, adidas, Starbucks, Up2Us, and Thomson Reuters!
Fun Fact: America SCORES New York poet-athletes get 10 times as much exercise as other kids their age.
Fun Fact: America SCORES New York poet-athletes engaged in more than 60 hours of poetry workshops this fall, improving their creative writing skills as well as their attitude towards school and learning.
Fun Fact: America SCORES New York poet-athletes enjoyed more than 60 hours of additional physical activity this fall by playing soccer!