Serving the D.C. Community

Serving the D.C. Community

One of my favorite aspects of The Washington Center's (TWC) internship program is civic engagement. As part of the civic engagement component at TWC, all students are required to engage in five hours of direct action (volunteering or advocacy) in the Washington, D.C. area. This activity helps students see firsthand what issues local communities deal with and how they are being addressed - while giving back to the community hosting us for a semester.

 

The emphasis that TWC places on civic engagement and direct service is something that I appreciate about this program because these two concepts hold a significant place in my heart. Aside from miscellaneous volunteer work, I served over 1,700 hours over the span of 11 months between 2014-2015 with City Year Boston, which left a lasting impression on me and, to this day, is something I consider to be one of the best things I have ever committed myself to. The fact that TWC also sees the importance of giving back to the community is something that I think makes TWC special.

 

This past Saturday, I engaged in my five hours of direct action with DC SCORES.  As a part of America SCORES, DC SCORES helps children succeed in all areas of life through "school-based, team-based, whole child programming — delivered through free after-school programs and summer camps facilitated by trained youth development professionals — intentionally integrates soccer, poetry, and service-learning to help low-income 3rd-8th graders throughout the District build physical fitness, find their voice, improve their literacy, increase school engagement, and strengthen ties to their community."

 

I was actually already familiar with America SCORES through the Boston SCORES program that was present at the middle school I served in with City Year, so I had already seen how positively the program impacted students. Additionally, I grew up playing soccer for my town on a traveling team and, of course, I care a great deal about assisting youth and education-centered causes. Thus, fulfilling my direct action requirement for TWC with DC SCORES was an obvious conclusion for me. I quickly signed up to volunteer at DC SCORES' Fall Frenzy event and eagerly awoke at 7am on a Saturday to brave the wind chill in the name of volunteerism.

 

The very large DC SCORES volunteer t-shirt that I was able to

thankfully layer over a fleece jacket.


When I arrived at Trinity Washington University for a full day of volunteering, I was promptly given a bright yellow DC SCORES volunteer t-shirt and assigned to chaperone a team from a local elementary school that was short on chaperones. Chewing half a bagel provided by DC SCORES, I jumped around in place to keep warm at the edge of a sea of soccer fields already prepared with goals and cones for children to begin playing on them in an hour. It was chilly, especially since the sun hadn't fully risen yet, but seeing all of the excited students and their adults arriving for a day of soccer and fun activities underneath the changing leaves brought a smile to my face.

 

Eventually, my team arrived, racing each other up the hill to check in and proudly wearing their forest green jerseys. I introduced myself to each of them - and their coaches and grown-ups - when I had confirmed they were the team I would be spending the day with in turn, shaking hands small and large with a grin. While I was elated to finally meet everyone, standing out in the cold gave me a whole new level of appreciation for how my parents attended all of my soccer games as a child and in turn, an understanding of why they did it.

 

I spent my day trailing behind the team, chasing stray soccer balls and finding soccer fields. I had a conversation with a player about the state of the face-paint soccer balls on his cheeks (faint on the left, nearly gone on the right), rolled down a grassy hill, and joined the energetic group of accompanying adults in a skeptical stare when a referee called for a corner kick on what was clearly a goal kick. Eventually, I was transferred over to assist a fellow TWC student and a few other volunteers at an activity table that promoted arts-and-crafts and poetry. I spent the remainder of my day distributing colorful paper, chasing after papers that the wind attempted to steal away and enjoying the impromptu poetry that the children at our table created.

 

At the end of the afternoon, I arrived back at my apartment sniffling and ready to fall into my warm bed. I thought I might be getting sick. I also thought that I would like it very much if I could do this every weekend, volunteering with an organization that impacts a community so positively and meeting the faces of a community that I may not be a part of but that I care about nonetheless.

 

Let's be honest though, I hardly made a difference in the grand scheme of things. My six hours of running around a soccer field and helping children make four-line poems are rather insignificant in the face of issues such as the achievement gap, the drop-out crisis, or even simply access to affordable, engaging and enriching extracurricular programming. However, I did make a child with a faint soccer ball painted on his cheek smile today, and I encouraged a girl to make a new poem to show to her mother. These are tiny contributions, perhaps even completely inconsequential and forgettable, but that's no excuse for not trying to help others. I can't "save" anyone or everyone, but making someone laugh is plenty enough for me for now.

 

After all, we're all we have on this tiny planet. Life is hard enough for everyone. The least we can do is to make life easier, brighter, healthier, safer and happier for each other while we're all still around.

 

So serve on, pals. Serve on.

 

 

Want to volunteer with DC SCORES too?  Click HERE to peruse a wide variety of volunteer opportunities!

 

Read Adrienne's previous blog posts

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More