WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) --- Nana Asare, 17, practices his footwork on the soccer field. He works as a summer camp counselor for DC SCORES, a non-profit organization providing free enrichment programs for over 1,400 low-income youth in the District.
"[K]eeping kids engaged and regularly using their brains and minds is really important 'cause summer learning loss is a massive problem in this city," said Amy Nakamoto, Executive Director of DC SCORES.
Two-hundred and fifty elementary students participate in four summer camps offered by DC SCORES. They follow a daily routine: three hours of soccer practice and three hours of arts enrichment like writing poetry.
Asare coaches a group of 2nd to 5th graders standing on the field at Marie H. Reed Elementary in Adams Morgan. The rising high school senior started playing soccer in fourth grade with DC SCORES.
"He was very quiet, very shy, didn't speak English very well," Nakamoto said.
Asare has since blossomed.
"And over the past what is now nine or ten years, I have watched him from liking soccer, but not communicating very well to being a coach, a counselor, a mentor to young people," Nakamoto added. DC SCORES operates with a staff of teachers and volunteer coaches and mentors.
Working as a camp counselor offers Asare a chance to give back.
"I feel really good. I feel like I'm doing something with myself... And being here is the most important thing because I'm helping these kids who were once in my shoes... become something even more better with this game soccer," he said.
During the school year, DC SCORES also offers after-school enrichment programs for 3rd to 8th graders in 42 District schools. Students engage in creative writing among other activities. DC SCORES encourages every student to explore and find a passion through the creative arts.
"When students come into our program, it's because they don't have the opportunities to participate in sports or to creatively express themselves in other areas," said Nakamoto.
Asare has found his passion in soccer. He currently plays striker on the field. As he plans to further his education, he aspires to play for a soccer team in college.
"Through DC SCORES, I've been able to meet a lot of soccer clubs and teams and meet actual celebrities from these teams, and I guess that's a wonderful experience because knowing you can come to a camp and meet these actual people. It gives you great motivation to keep on doing what your heart desires."
DC SCORES is the flagship program and affiliate of America SCORES, a nation-wide program in 14 cities.
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has provided a grant for DC SCORES.
Produced/Written by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA9 & WUSA9.com