Program Profile: America SCORES Chicago
For many of America SCORES' poet-athletes, the highlight of the week is game day, where students from participating schools gather to play soccer.
America SCORES Chicago’s unique programming mix of soccer, poetry, and service learning gives students the means and the motivation to become leaders in their schools and communities. The organization focuses on these three activities to address specific needs in the community. According to SCORES staff, one in three students in the community are overweight, and soccer provides a way for students to increase physical activity and learn about healthy lifestyles. Poetry and creative writing provide a vehicle for self-expression and the improvement of literacy skills. Through service-learning activities, America SCORES students design and carry out a service project that addresses an identified community need. Past projects have reflected a range of community concerns, including an anti-violence campaign, the importance of recycling, and how to make healthy lifestyle choices.
SCORES activities are aligned with the program’s core values: teamwork, leadership, and commitment. These values are discussed with all staff at initial trainings and reinforced across the program at the individual and team levels, as well as with parents and students.
Afterschool activities focus on soccer, poetry, and service learning to address specific needs in the community.
“The key to the America SCORES model is that it is holistic and team based, and the core activities provide youth with opportunities to have their voices heard,” says SCORES education director Amy Mummery. “The result is a team of youth who experience success on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.”
SCORES staff are critical to the program’s success. “Hiring, training, and supporting great coaches who are committed to building relationships and holding youth to high expectations is [our] primary focus . . . in the weeks leading up to each season,” says Mummery. “The reality is that when the school bell rings, the youth in our program show up because they have a coach who they know cares about them and will create a safe space for them to have fun and build their skills with their teammates.”
To reinforce the program's value of commitment, poet-athletes are only eligible to participate in Friday soccer games if they have attended soccer practices and writing workshops throughout the week.
The program uses consistent, values-based behavior management to help students develop social and emotional skills. “It’s not enough to just tell youth what they can and cannot do,” says Mummery. “We have to communicate and interact with them in a way that helps them develop the skills, habits, and attitudes to recognize what they should and should not do. The relationships established and built over the course of the season between poet-athletes and their coaches create an opportunity separate from the regular school day for this development to happen.” Mummery believes the approach is having an impact. According to SCORES staff, at the end of the spring season, all of the surveyed parents reported that since joining the SCORES team at their school, they have observed their child taking more responsibility for actions and placing more value on teamwork and cooperation.
For programs interested in increasing their focus in social-emotional learning, Mummery stresses the importance of staff applying behavior management consistently throughout the program so that students understand behavioral expectations. In addition, she advises afterschool programs to “integrate a value-based approach to behavior management at all levels of the organization, from the board and staff to students and parents.
She also advocates for hiring committed staff. “Hire great people who are not only passionate about helping youth succeed but who believe in your organization’s mission and approach to positive youth development,” says Mummery.
Learn more about America SCORES Chicago.