It began in 1994 as a way to give inner-city schoolchildren something safe and productive to do after school. Julie Kennedy, an elementary schoolteacher in Washington brought in a soccer ball in and invited her kids to stay after school for soccer lessons. But as the weather turned cold, she moved the action inside -- and taught them creative writing instead. With the help of sponsors and volunteers, this simple idea has grown to become a national organization called "America Scores" with affiliates in 15 cities, including the U.S. capital, offering a range of after school programs for inner-city children.
In Boston, Massachusetts, it is called "New England Scores", in Denver, Colorado, it is "Denver Scores" and in Washington D.C., it becomes "D.C. Scores. Whatever the city, the mission is the same. Holly O'Donnell the executive Director of DC Scores explains its mission.
"The mission of DC Scores is to inspire in urban children a lasting dedication to education, healthy living and civic responsibility."
America Scores connects academic and athletic development of schoolchildren between the ages of 8 and 14 by providing them with creative writing and soccer activities each day after school. Throughout the year, students participate in a variety of stimulating activities. The fall semester culminates with championship soccer games and a Poetry Slam. Students spend the spring semester collaborating with local organizations on a wide range community projects. Director Holly O'Donnell - a graduate of Brown University and a former member of its soccer team - says DC Scores organizes five weeks of educational and athletic camps during the summer vacation.
"We have a full day summer camp and it is open to a 100 children and it combines soccer and creative writing." She says "But then also there is no child that wants to do that all day, every day for 8 hours, so what we end up doing is adding arts component to the program where they do drumming and drawing and they do also go to field trips."
The children most involved in the DC Scores programs come mainly from the poorest neighborhoods in the U.S capital.
Ellington Carter is a 10 year-old student in a Washington elementary school. He found the DC Scores soccer camp a rewarding experience.
"I like soccer as a sport because I get to meet new people and because it is a good environment to be around." He adds, "also it helped me endorse myself and get stronger and hopefully it can help me be like (U.S. soccer star) Freddy Ado should I could be in DC United."
Many professional soccer players -- including young DC United star Freddy Ado -- regularly volunteer at the camp to train aspiring young players.
"DC United is a huge, huge supporter of us, from money to tickets, to bringing players to schools. And we are lucky to have so much support from around the city." Says Holly O'Donnell.
Chris Forpitt is a soccer coach from the American Soccer Academy who also works with the children at the DC Scores soccer camp. He believes that skillful young immigrant players like Freddy Ado -- a recent Ghanaian immigrant the youngest professional soccer player in America - can serve as important role models for inner-city children.
"Freddy Ado has just been phenomenal, every one here knows who is he and trying to emulate him." He says "we actually do something called move of the day, where I show the kids what to do and we did Freddy Ado's move and kids tried it all the time and loved it."
Through an enticing program of soccer, creative writing and civic activities, America Scores is putting excitement into learning for some of America's neediest young students - a simple idea that's being applied today in 3000 public elementary schools across the United States.