Youth Leaders, Future Leaders

We could not have done it without them!

Summer 2019 was all about #summerSCORES - our six-week program of soccer activities serving over 100 poet-athletes. And we were lucky enough to have the amazing help of high school students who came to us through New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

These students helped run the program at three different sites in Inwood, Harlem, and Brooklyn, and were able to learn first-hand about America SCORES New York and our involvement in these communities.

To celebrate National Youth Confidence day and recognize the incredible dedication of our community's youth, we sat down with five SYEP members to hear about their #summerSCORES experience!

So think back to when you first walked onto the field on first day of #summerSCORES. How did you feel?

Julio: I felt nervous because I didn't know how I was gonna communicate with the kids. I didn't know if they were gonna understand me, if I was gonna understand them. There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind.

James: For most of them, I didn't know how they were gonna behave or if they were gonna like me at all, but in the end, they did so that was nice.

Devin: At first, I wasn't scared,I was very confident because I did this type of work before. The second day was easier because everyone knew each other but the first day we were still all trying to get to know each other.

Natalia: I mean, I know I'm not a very vocal person and I don't like to cause problems. I started with middle school and I know how kids that age sometimes won't listen, but the middle schoolers really grew on me. I was just really scared that the first day that they wouldn't take me seriously and I wouldn't know how to react to that because I don't speak up easily and I don't like asking for help, it's just something I just don't do.

Britney: I was excited to know that you get to know a lot of things about them on the first day and that you get to take turns coaching the kids. It was kind of hard at first because it was hot outside and they don't really listen when it's hot but you kinda just need to do it--it's a big step when you're in charge.

How did you feel on your last day? Was it different than the first day?

Britney: Yes, it was so different! You just knew everybody's name and that made me happy because everybody knew you, you got closer to the staff, and you knew what to do.

Devin: Family day showed me how different it was. It was fun to see when kids plan to get you during the water games. At first it's like, "Man, why are these kids trying to get me wet? But then it's like "Wow, they really thought about getting me out of everybody here!" It's a special moment, you feel special.

Julio: The transition from the first day to the last one was a big one. I thought the whole summer camp that I was gonna be quiet and I was gonna be the one counselor that nobody knew. But the kids grew on me and I started getting closer to them.

Natalia: I did attendance a lot, I know every person first and last name! There were little elementary kids that were so cute and they really clicked with me, like Eduardo, who would always give me hugs in the morning and be like "Natalia!" It was really different because I thought, like Julio, that no one would really know who I was and I would be really quiet throughout the whole camp because I didn't know how to give directions to kids, but at the end, a lot of the kids were coming up to me and asking me to sign their ball.

You all mention that you got close to all the kids. Is there any moment with one of the campers that stands out to you?

Natalia: Carlos and I got close because he saw me as someone who really cared about him in the camp. We would walk home together and I would take him on the train to and from camp. I would even take him to the library on 145th Street. I think the moment that I had with him that connected the both of us was him telling me was being bullied and if he got hurt, I would see him off to the side and I would give him an ice pack and we would talk and then he'd eventually go out and play again.

Devin: I feel like I had a click with Esmeralda.I feel like I clicked with her. Every time we had a conversation it would be about something else and we would keep going. I feel like spiritually she was my sister. I feel like somehow we got really close to all the kids, to the point where we had nicknames for everyone!

James: Haiti and her brother were cute together because they were kinda the same. They were close in age and they acted similar because they were both emotional, so it was good getting to know them too.

Julio: It would be Catherine because every single time she'd do a drill, I would give her a high-five and she always had a big smile on her face. It came to a point that she gave me a hilo and I felt that, I felt special in that moment.

Britney: I never thought you could have a second part of yourself in camp, and I think I had that with Christian. I remember the last day of camp and he goes "I wish you were my sister! I've always dreamed of an older sister!" and it kinda hit me hard. I told him I'd always be his camp sister and he kinda just smiled and that made my day because he's an only child and I know that can be kinda hard at times but me and him had a really really strong bond. I was kind of an example to him because he looked up to me and that's what a lot of kids do at camp and you kinda don't realize that, but it's really important.

Did any of you have an "Aha" moment where you realized the importance of what you were doing?

Natalia: I did with Carlos. He told me he was born in Ecuador and his first language is Spanish. His teacher is so proud of him because he learned English so fast and just that stuff is He's barely 10 and people are making fun of his accent, but he's learned so much. But I think meeting him was humbling because meeting him reminded me of what my family had to go through when they came here. I just think Carlos is a really special person.

Julio: The one time when that light bulb went off in my head was with Abdul. You see how Abdul is always angry and trying not to pay attention. Well, when we started doing poetry I heard how he actually likes poetry and that opened my eyes up a little bit because you realize there's more to these kids than just soccer. They have way more to their personalities and that really hit home to because who would think Abdul, of all people, would like poetry? Yeah, that really surprised me.

Devin: When I first came, I thought it was gonna be a serious program with kids who only wanted to get better and stuff like that, but then you see kids like Abdul playing around and I was like "These kids didn't come here to get better, they came here to have a second family and have fun." These kids are just being themselves, just being kids. The more time that passed by, they opened up more and expressed their true selves and their true identities.

What skills do you think you gained throughout the summer that could serve you in the future?

James: I certainly know how to handle kids more and not get annoyed very easily. I also know I have a huge responsibility taking care of them, even in a specific perimeter like the school of the field, that's not that big and a safe place, but I certainly felt like I had a certain responsibility towards them. I learned how to be a more of a leader.

Devin: I definitely learned quick thinking, so if there's a problem with a kid, I would try to help as fast as I can to make sure everyone would stay in check. Also improvising and thinking out of the box because not all kids are the same!

Britney: For me, I think that I've learned to put my foot down, but you also learn that you have to find a way to talk to them where they don't think you're being mean to them or too controlling. I've also developed a lot of patience.

Julio: I learned to keep pushing through because it was very hot some days and sometimes it would even be raining and I would think that I wanna go home right away but I kept working with the kids. You look at the kids and they're in the same situation as you and you think, "I can do it too if they are", so you keep pushing through and not giving up.

What was your favorite moment?

Devin: Family Day. And that one day middle school went to Inwood and elementary stayed and I was able to connect more with the kids and everything went smoothly, there were no problems.

Natalia: I also liked the day with elementary because it was so calm you know? Even the counselors that were there were messing around with the kids!

Britney: So my favorite moment was when they were doing poetry. That first day they were doing poetry, they all actually participated! No one was whining like "I don't wanna do poetry, I wanna go and play." They would ask me for help and I told them they could write about anything and they would write so much and when it was time for them to read their poems, they weren't shy! They'd get on the stage, they'd read it, like they didn't care who was watching and they read the poem and expressed themselves. You can tell they have patience with soccer but also poetry, and I think that's really cool

Devin: We should do even more poetry, they open up more!

If someone asked you about your summer, how would you describe it and your time with America SCORES New York?

Devin: The first thing I would say is that it is a place where you could be yourself. You do soccer and poetry and what more can you ask for? It's another group of people you can call family. It's crazy how you can bond in a few weeks with kids of all ages, races, regions, and neighborhoods.

Britney: It's where kids they improve really well in soccer and poetically, which not many people can do both.

Julio: I would describe ASNY as a very fun and safe environment where, like Devin said, you can be yourself and express yourself. You would think that a kid wouldn't accept who you are but it's the complete opposite. I thought i would struggle in this summer because I thought I wouldn't work well with kids, but it was the complete opposite. I really enjoyed my time here and might even do it next year!

James: America SCORES is a unique place where if you wanna reminisce about being a child, come work here. I saw a lot of kids that reminded me of myself. I didn't really get to do this when I was younger and I would love to come here next year because it's a great place to work.

Natalia: I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did because I don't have a lot of patience, but being with the kids and getting to know these kids made me really loved working here and I would love to do it again next year. I really like America SCORES and what it represents and what I learned from it this summer. If I didn't do this, I'd probably just be doing a random office job, but I got to learn from these kids.

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