Each day, hundreds of Milwaukeeans dedicate time, energy and financial resources to important work for non-profit organizations in the community.
These people -- who work on the front lines for causes including the environment, education, the arts, social issues, charities, health care, politics, religion, animal protection, sports and other endeavors -- go about their business without a great deal of fanfare or recognition.
In order to help rectify that, and create awareness for worthy causes throughout the area, OnMilwaukee.com created the Non-profit Spotlight. The featured organization today is America SCORES Milwaukee. We talked with program director John Eggebrecht about the organization.
OnMilwaukee.com: What is America SCORES?
John Eggebrecht: A national non-profit organization, America SCORES is a unique after-school program that empowers students in urban communities using soccer, writing, creative expression and service learning.
Teamwork built through each of these activities unifies all participants and inspires them to lead healthy lifestyles, be engaged students, and become agents of change in their communities. America SCORES Milwaukee (ASM) is one of 14 affiliate sites.
SCORES hires and trains accredited public school teachers at each participating school to conduct the program. This enables a ripple effect where these same teachers can continue to inspire reading, writing and academic success using SCORES resources throughout the school day.
For 10 weeks each fall and spring, America SCORES provides a comprehensive after-school program that is free for students. Public school children, ages 8-12, meet every day after school to participate in: soccer practices with their team (two days per week); poetry and service-learning workshops (two days per week) and a soccer game (one per week).
Every day, after school, SCORES students are in safe, supervised activities that empower them to be confident on the field, in the classroom, and in daily life. Together they bridge the cognitive and kinesthetic and bring together a diverse group of children with different language and communication skills, helping them to develop self-confidence and a life-long appreciation of sports and dedication to healthy behaviors.
OMC: How many kids does it serve and what are the participating schools?
JE: ASM serves 160 children total, with 32 children (16 boys and 16 girls) at each of its five schools. SCORES is currently working with three South Side schools (Hayes Bilingual Elementary, Riley Elementary, and Windlake Elementary) and two North Side schools (Lloyd Street and 21st Street School).
ASM serves children in areas that provide limited, low quality, or unaffordable after-school programming and where poverty and violence are common. Children at SCORES schools are primarily of Hispanic or African-American ethnicity. More than 50 percent of ASM children are learning English as a second language.
Most have little or no access to recess or physical education as part of their school day and 94 percent of SCORES students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Fifty percent are girls who have traditionally been excluded from after-school athletic programs.
ASM plans to add one additional North Side school and implement a middle school program during the 2008-‘09 school year.
OMC: When you think about urban kids, soccer and poetry aren't the first things that come to mind. How does the mixture work?
JE: You're definitely right; most people would not consider soccer and poetry common activities when thinking about urban communities. But as we all know, two major crises exist in our public schools today (especially in major metropolitan areas): more children are obese today then at any time in our history and illiteracy levels are on the rise.
America SCORES has found a credible motivation through a unique program methodology that combines sports with academics. The America SCORES formula starts with soccer -- a team sport for boys and girls, no matter their height, weight, speed, etc. -- and uses it as our building block for social camaraderie among at-risk youth.
We create teams in urban public schools in communities that face a myriad of socio-economic challenges. We then require that our teams commit every other day after-school, when they are not at soccer practice, to literacy workshops. Literacy workshops focus on helping students to apply reading and writing to their real-life experiences. The results are that our youth translate their teamwork and peer pressure from sports to academics. With continuous group efforts and positive reinforcement from other children and coaches, each child realizes that what they write and what they feel are important and worthy of sharing.
Soccer in America has become a suburban sport, but in most other countries, it is played by all people, no matter their gender, race, or class. SCORES sees soccer as an opportunity to show urban children that they are not limited to sports (or any activity for that matter) that is stereotypical of their race. With poetry, children are able to write freely about anything they can imagine which makes it enjoyable. Poetry has few boundaries allowing children to put their thoughts on paper without worrying about grammatical errors. As SCORES students become comfortable with their writing, they can then revisit their work and perfect it so they are proud of what they have accomplished.
OMC: Are there any success stories from the program?
JE: Program success can be seen on many different levels ranging from program expansion to an individual child who has shown immense improvement in behavior and school success. First of all, in the past year the SCORES program has expanded to two additional elementary schools and has a strategic plan in place to continue this growth in the years to come. Prior to February 2007, executive director Kate Carpenter was the only staff person, and has since employed two part time assistants and a full-time Ameri-Corps Vista volunteer who assists in program development. With this growth of schools and staff, ASM has also seen tremendous buy-in from all partner organizations who not only help fund SCORES but also volunteer numerous hours each season.
ASM implements numerous different methods of evaluating the program each year in order to determine if we are in fact influencing children's lives. Since the programs inception, there has been no doubt that children who participate in SCORES truly benefit. Parent and teacher surveys have clearly shown that the students in SCORES enjoy the program, are more physically active, and are more engaged in the classroom than prior to joining SCORES.
Philliber Research Associates recognized these successes after the 2005-'06 season. Philliber's report showed that SCORES does positively affect urban children, with significant improvements documented in language arts, health, self-confidence, and community awareness and responsibility.
On a more personal level, SCORES staff and coaches have seen incredible buy-in and changes with children who at first impression seemed to be on a dead-end road. Numerous girls in the SCORES program start rather intimidated, feeling as though sports aren't their forte. After just one season though, those same girls are very enthusiastic and devoted to soccer, playing their hardest and giving pointers to newcomers. On the other hand, most boys wouldn't necessarily be thrilled to write poetry but during the off-season, we have boys come up to us with a poem they wrote and telling us they can't wait until the season starts.
Success can be measured in many different ways -- with a nationally recognized research firm, by surveying parents and teachers, or even visiting one teams soccer and writing sessions. No matter how you look at it, there will always be children who are so happy to start SCORES at the end of the school day that they run up and hug their coaches.
Soccer and poetry may not be the most common activities in urban Milwaukee, but once the children begin to constantly ask when the season starts, we know we're making a difference.
OMC: What does America SCORES need to be successful?
JE: Simply put, a consistent source of funding -- donations and grants from individuals, corporations, and foundations. For those individuals, corporations and foundations that currently do support us, we cannot thank them enough.
Yet we seek to expand our programming and with expansion comes increased need for staffing, office equipment, and general funding to provide stipends to our coaches, busing to soccer games, or even notebooks and pencils for the children who participate. Looking to future funding sources, we hope to find greater support from individuals and corporations and this can come in several different forms.
Volunteers are always a tremendous help, donations are fantastic, and although still considered a donation, we host special events each year such as a corporate soccer tournament and a dinner auction. Some companies are very enthusiastic about soccer and invite their own employees to play in our tournament, others sponsor a team and we can find players for them.
With our dinner auction, we would not benefit without the numerous in-kind donations of auction items, and of course the many people that attend.
Overall, in order to be successful in our strive for financial support, we must increase the communities knowledge of America SCORES Milwaukee. OnMilwaukee.com is a fantastic example of this, serving as a means of outreach into the community to spread the word of the incredible things we do each day with children.
OMC: How can people get involved?
JE: Like any non-profit, the simple answer is for individuals and corporations to donate, but there are numerous other ways that people can become involved.
ASM has such a small staff -- Kate (is) hardly full-time, a full-time Ameri-Corps Vista volunteer and myself working 10 hours a week -- that any outside help is truly appreciated.
The U.S. is a leading country in philanthropy, but people often don't volunteer or they stop volunteering because they don't have fun or don't have any direction in their tasks. Being multi-faceted, SCORES volunteers can choose from numerous different tasks -- from working with one team in the classroom or on the field, to refereeing a game day, being an amateur photographer, or even helping in the office or setting up a special event, everyone can find their niche with SCORES.
Anyone interested can contact the SCORES office at (414) 358-2510 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the program or to find ways to volunteer, click Get Involved on our Web site: www.americascoresmilwaukee.org.
OMC: How did you get started with the program? What do you find most rewarding about it?
JE: I'm currently a student at Cardinal Stritch University pursuing a degree in Sport Management. During the fall semester in 2006, I was taking a sport sociology course that had a community service requirement. My professor previously had students work with Kate Carpenter, and most of them completed their 15 hours and split. I, on the other hand, was drawn into the program and volunteered many more hours than required.
My devotion to SCORES and to each child I worked with appealed to Kate, who hired me as a part-time assistant early in 2007. Working with a non-profit may seem easy, but for those who are truly passionate about the program they are working for, the hours worked often exceeds the pay. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is one of the things I find most rewarding. Even though I am ‘working' for SCORES, I see it more as an enjoyable experience that inspires me to work above and beyond what is expected.
Working with non-profits is a chaotic undertaking, often having a job description but also taking on many different tasks that suddenly appear in a day's work.
Because of this hectic atmosphere, non-profit turnover rates are typically high, but for me this makes it so interesting that I'm excited to wake up and see what the day brings. Working in the office, with coaches and volunteers, and even working with the children who participate, all people involved are constantly encountering new challenges.
As easy as it would be to say the greatest reward of working with SCORES is helping urban children, probably the best reward is being able to place myself in situations where I am needed and appreciated and ultimately being able to share these triumphs with my peers.
Like I said before about the difficulty to motivate a child to play soccer and write instead of find friends on the streets, what motivates me to work long hours for little pay instead of making the big bucks? What motivates me is being able to learn and develop as a student and young professional by interacting with children who have already experienced difficult life situations -- some that I may never encounter.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.