On a sun-lit soccer field in West Harlem, Chris Lantigua stands smiling, a soft-spoken, positive 24-year-old who coaches a team of SCORES NY poet-athletes. Chris is a proud alumnus of the SCORES NY program. He joined at age 8, on the urging of his sister, who wanted him to be surrounded by kids who could provide a positive influence.
“I used to hang out with disruptive kids which led to me being held back a grade,” says Chris. That all changed once he got involved with SCORES: “It was my first time being part of a team. I learned about commitment and working together.”
SCORES treats commitment very seriously. If poet-athletes don’t attend soccer practice, poetry sessions, or service components, there are immediate repercussions. Chris remembers learning this lesson the hard way:
“At one point, I didn’t show up for a couple of my poetry sessions and my coach called me out being that I was one of the older and veteran poet-athletes on the team, he told me that the rest of my teammates looked up to me as a leader and that I should lead by example. I apologized to my coaches and teammates that week and never missed a day of poetry ever again.”
Chris’ dedication to his SCORES team didn’t go unnoticed. One year, he even received the renowned Commitment Badge patch.
Now, in his final year of study at Lehman College, Chris hopes to one day work as an elementary school teacher in New York. For the time being, he remains involved in the SCORES NY program as a coach, embodying the service and leadership qualities he first learned as a SCORES student.
Coaching at SCORES also gives Chris the opportunity to relive “all the fond memories that I still hold deep in my heart from the time I was in the program as a student.”
Chris noted he finds himself “thinking how as a student I didn’t pay much attention to the people who made all the games and events possible for us to enjoy.”
He reflected, “Now that I’m one of those individuals working ‘behind-the-scenes,’ I wonder how many of the kids that I get to interact with will remember me. As a coach, I feel like a teenager again and I’ve learned to earn their [the poet-athletes’] trust by sharing similar situations that they may be going through to help with by coming up with a solution, or just to make them feel more at ease with whatever issue they may be going through.”
Chris’ continued involvement with SCORES NY demonstrates that although the SCORES program is targeted to students in elementary and middle school, its influence and opportunities for involvement can last much longer.
The leadership, writing, commitment, and creative skills Chris had the opportunity to develop as a poet-athlete are the same skills he continues to use and develop as a college student and SCORES coach.
We are very proud of all that Chris has and will continue to accomplish, and are so grateful for his continued support of the SCORES NY program!