By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Apr 19, 2018 at 6:07 PM

Soccer, poetry and community service. Those are the three unlikely tools one organization has been using for the last 15 years to provide high-quality afterschool opportunities to thousands of underserved local kids.

America SCORES Milwaukee – an affiliate of the national SCORES network, the community outreach arm of the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club and a partner of Milwaukee Public Schools – incorporates soccer programming with creative writing and service components in its mission to inspire inner-city youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world. It’s sport for social good, an innovative approach to youth development, community-building on the field.

Executive Director Kate Carpenter founded SCORES Milwaukee in 2004, recognizing the need for increased after-school options and the opportunity to develop impactful programs that would serve the community’s neediest children.

Since then, the organization has expanded from 40 kids at one school to 2,000 across 25 schools, offering all different types of programming, and along the way developing a dedicated, proven model of success. 

The America SCORES formula starts with soccer – as a healthy activity and a way to promote social camaraderie among at-risk youth – and sees the sport as an important buildingblock to create a safe, positive learning environment for reading and writing. SCORES uses soccer and writing workshops to combat the rising obesity and illiteracy levels in urban public schools; games incentivize the academic and service requirements, while poetry allows for creative expression and improves self-worth.

"The results," SCORES says, "are that our youth translate their teamwork and peer pressure from sports to academics to community betterment.

Every year, America SCORES Milwaukee hosts the SCORES CUP, a charity indoor soccer tournament that brings together soccer players, coworkers and friends for a fun evening of soccerin which teams compete both to raise funds and lift the trophy. Thanks to 2017 SCORES CUP donors, more than 2,000 Milwaukee children were provided free afterschool and summer programming. 

This year’s CUP is on Saturday, April 21, from 4 to 10 p.m. at Uihlein Soccer Park. America SCORES Milwaukee’s fundraising goal of $20,000 for the event has not yet been reached, so to register, donate to the cause or get more information, please click here.

We recently sat down with Kate Carpenter to talk about America SCORES Milwaukee, its methodology, programming and success and what’s on the horizon.

OnMilwaukee: How did the launch of America SCORES in Milwaukee come about, both personally and organizationally?

Kate Carpenter: I’d been coaching mostly girls team here at Kickers since 1990, but I really thought I wanted to get into coaching education. I wanted to be a coach trainer. I came into the office one day to meet with (former MKSC coaching director) Jerry Panek and I walked by the executive director at the time's office, and they're like, "Hey, come in here." And he gave me this big red binder and was like, "Take this home and read it. Let me know what you think by Monday." It was Friday. I'm like, "All right." 

I take this thing home and start reading, and it's this program that's combining literacy and soccer for third through fifth graders. And I was like, Why didn't I think of that? I went to school for journalism, played soccer, it never occurred to me ... I knew how it worked in my life, but it didn't occur to me that this could be an actual model of operation for youth development.

I looked at this and I was like, Oh my God, this is the inner city gifted and talented program. It doesn't matter what it is, it happened to be something that I loved, soccer. But you're taking a group of kids and you're giving them five days a week of individual attention – some of it around academics and some of it around physical health, which by and by feed into each other for overall success. 

I was like, this is cool. I came back in and I said, "Hey, yeah I'm interested." And they're like, "OK, why don't you just do it?" And I was like, "Well, I'm a journalism major. Never run a program, never written a grant. I don't know what you're talking about, but sure I'll do it." I met with the National Office at SCORES and they're like, "You're not going to have any issues. Everybody's going to want your program. You just walk into a school and say, ‘Here's the program,’ and they're going to take it."

I was like, really? That seems weird. I actually met with my kid's elementary school principal and I said, "What would you think if I walked in and just said here's this program?" And she's like, "Well, I would take it but we don't qualify." Because you have to have free or reduced lunch of 90 percent or higher and no support or other activities. She's like, "But let me call up my principal friend at Windlake Elementary, down on 15thand Windlake."

Ten days later, in May of 2004, we launched a program, because it really was that easy. I came in and said, "Well here it is, I don't really know, we'll work it out together." She's like, "Let's try it." 

We started, we did a little pilot at one school, and then all summer I drove up and down because basically what the national office had guided me, they said, "Work in quadrants, so that kids can walk back and forth between schools." That part was false, but the quadrants kind of worked. So, I drove up and down Lincoln Avenue and ventured off to schools right off there, and found two other schools that would take us right away, and those were our three schools for quite a while. We had three schools on the South Side, and we've just slowly grown from there. It was a weird beginning, but it all kind of fed in at the right time for me.

Why was it was so easy and appealing for these schools to jump on board right away?

Well, because all of those kids love soccer. Because the Latino community, they're already playing soccer. They knew that it was free, so they have nothing to lose by letting me come in and run a free program that we were going to pay their staff to do, and provide a program that kids will love on first blush because it's soccer. Then they tolerate the academic side. 

Some are only in it ... a lot of kids are in it for different reasons, the majority is soccer. But on the North Side, it's not actually soccer that's bringing them in. It's just having the experience at all of being part of a team. Everything that goes with it, of being sort of this healthy group that can stick together and bond together.

It hasn't really mattered what kids, but that was the easiest launch. For years we were down there, it was really easy and we had tried on and off to do things on the North Side. And we learned that our approach was wrong. The North Side not having any kids playing soccer, their principals really it didn't mean a thing to them, so we would say, "We're going to bring this 20-week program to your school. Five days a week, every day after school, we're going to need your staff." And they were like, "No."

Making that kind of commitment was more than a lot of those schools could just even fathom. And, honestly, the North Side is challenging, and it's really hard to get teachers to invest, after school, more time. That's challenging everywhere, but it's a little more challenging when your school-day environment can be more chaotic than some of the South Side schools that we work in. 

So we're like, "OK, that's not working." We were in and out of a few schools. Most of the schools that we were in actually closed, which is why we didn't stay. Then we thought, We have to rethink this model, because we do want to be on the North Side. What's not working?

And this is the great thing about having a partnership with Kickers, is that there is a broadness in connecting to both missions. So, SCORES mission is a little bit more specific around the academics and the service. And the broader mission of access of Kickers for all ages and all ethnicities allows us a little wiggle room when we partner together. So we thought we need to introduce this sport to kids before they're ever going to do anything else.

City Kicks is a program of the Milwaukee Kickers – currently, Milwaukee Kickers runs City Kicks and American SCORES in Milwaukee – and City Kicks is a soccer-only fee-for-service program. Schools purchase their time, usually in the after-school space because the after-school people have a budget. We build whatever they want. If they want to have a three-week soccer camp, we'll go in and do three weeks. If they want to meet once a week for six weeks, whatever it is. We charge a small fee based on the number of kids that we serve. We said, "This way they can get to know us, get to know the sport, and if they really like it, then we'll try to bring SCORES back."

So kids got a little more excited about it, but we also knew that we couldn't come in with our full five-day-a-week, third through fifth-grade program, it’s still too big. SCORES has a first and second grade program now that is twice a week, six-week season in the winter. It gets kids used to what we're doing, and then they can grow into the third through fifth grade program. We started that model that any new school that comes on board now starts with first and second grade, and then slowly builds. 

Then the culture grows with the school, the interest grows in the school, staff get comfortable. They hear and see how we treat them and support them, and we're able to move a little bit quicker in the school. Now we have three North Side schools that we're regularly in, and they have the first through fifth grade program running.

How many schools are you guys in now?


You mentioned having to find the right approach with some of the North Side schools. Once you're in a school, do you find that the kids are pretty receptive to the programming, regardless of their background or their circumstances?

We really have very little attrition, unless we're in neighborhoods where movement among schools and families is high. If a kid starts in our program in first grade, typically we will see them all the way through unless they leave that school. Sometimes we see them at other schools, depending on where they're jumping to. 

I think that there's enough going on – because in the fall we do poetry, spring we do service learning. There's enough variation to keep kids interested – if they don't really love poetry, the service stuff is what they're really into, or vice-versa. And it's different every year a little bit. We have a rotating curriculum and things like that, so for kids who've been in it for multiple years, it doesn't get stale. 

And our staff – I mean, really, the success story here is that every staff member we've ever had, no matter how many years ago they started, they're still with us. And they're all school-day teachers. If they've left schools, they've started the SCORES program at the school that they've moved to. Which is really the true story here, because they’ve seen the impact, and you know what? Kids also needs the consistency. 

So in that school, everybody knows this is the SCORES coach. And we expect SCORES kids to model good behavior all day long, so the SCORES coach is often being told during the school day what's happening, and the kids are being held accountable. The story at La Follette School is that we got an email five years ago from a teacher who isn't there anymore – she left the district – that just said, "I'm a teacher at La Follette; no one will come here and deliver any programs for our kids. We need help. Will you come?" And we're like, "Of course we're going to come."

So we went there, and it was a rough space. We've been there five years, and the whole culture of the school is changing, along with these SCORES kids. It's small enough that these core kids are starting to move around and make changes in their school. And so now it is about the social workers, the coach there. If it's Friday and the kids are wearing their game-day stuff and they're acting up, she's like, "Take your uniform off. You can't represent us with this behavior, take it off." They have to go, deliver the shirt and try to earn it back. But the whole school's like that, even the principal.

So the SCORES kids are becoming the school’s influencers.

Yeah, and what they are also doing is achieving. Traditionally, at North Side schools after the first few weeks of the fall, attendance starts dropping. And the SCORES kids’ attendance keeps rising. In the beginning, everybody's around 93 percent attendance rates. Once they make the team, SCORES kids are going up to 95 and 96 during the school year, as their classmates, by November, were down to 87 percent. It's just being part of the team, that’s the incentive. Can't play on Friday if you're not here, things like that.

Is third through fifth grade SCORES’ only age group? 

That's the primary age. All of us do that one thing exactly the same across the nation, and then some places do the little ones, and some people have all the way up through high school. Each city is afforded the opportunity to have some autonomy to meet the needs of their city and fundraising capacity. But everybody sort of marches in one direction around this core age and we can share out the successes along the way, and they are basically replicable from city to city.

Programmatically, what are the nuts and bolts of SCORES, as far as the school, sports and service stuff? 

Those are the core pillars of our program: poetry, service learning – which is a deeper dive into community service; they end up doing projects for their community – and then soccer. The kids spend five days a week for 10 weeks in the fall and the spring, like a soccer season. Two days they're in writing, two days they have soccer practice. Fridays, we have a community game day where we bring all of the SCORE sites to one location, and they rotate and play each other for the 10 weeks. They work in teams.

We had a little bit of a budget cut this year, unanticipated. Up until now, we had been saying we had girls-only and boys-only teams. Well, we'd actually been debating that concept because of the growing awareness that gender and the issues around gender are being more well-received in the community and are happening at lower ages. So we said, we're going to move away from the language of boys-only, girls-only. We had thought we were going to go to high-competitive and low-competitive teams, and then let kids pick. 

But we had on a funding cut, so right now we're coed. If we get back up to full funding, we can decide whether or not we even feel the need to go back to coed. It reduced our number of kids being served at the school from 32 to 20, that's the sad fact, but moving to co-ed hasn't affected an interest level, and we wondered if girls would drop off or anything like that. It hasn't, so that's fine. We're kind of balancing how to deal with gender. 

But for the most part we're using these three components to provide kids a safe space, with a caring and trusting adult, give them positive things to do after school and continually connect back the positive attributes that each of those play in one’s life. Academics, sport, physical health, giving to your community, all of those things rolled into one over time – the kind of person that you're going to be and understanding how you work in the world. 

All of our schools are from impoverished zip codes in this area, so anybody who's been following the 50-Year Ache knows that ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experience studies) is the biggest sort of topic that people are trying to address through different ways. We've been doing it with SCORES for years and years, we just hadn't been officially tying it to some of the mental health aspects of it. But sport has this incredible opportunity to be a healing framework for kids to really work on stuff. It also is fraught with things that escalate some of their feelings that are a result of their living. So we’re spending a lot of time doing trauma-informed care and sports-based programming, as well as social-emotional learning. 

In Milwaukee, we've rewritten a lot of our curriculum to incorporate either different activities, writing experiences or teamwork challenges and games to start helping kids either cope with scenarios or help them build skills.

It’s been really interesting. I think, for us, we've always been on that path, we just never articulated that we were doing all of that. But we really do see the positive impact with kids and having these opportunities. At one of our schools this year – in junior, for first and second grade – they do writing a little bit different. Obviously, they're not getting ready to perform in a poetry slam and they're not doing a service project because that's a little above their pay grade. But what they do do is little writing activities every day. And their day is a fun day. They actually come in, do a fun welcome game, then there's a book that's read to them, highlighting competency, self-management. They do a writing activity that connects to the writing project, then they share. They get up and they share.

This is a six-week program. Six weeks is not a lot of time to maybe see a lot of change, or at least you don't think so. But this year, we were at a school where there was a child in the group who was a self-selective mute. She had a lot of issues around communication during the school day, with her peers after school, but she was included in the after-school program. Then, all of a sudden, we started seeing her participate. 

At first, she was so quiet. But, even probably in week two, I was there – everybody gets up and shares something about what they wrote. And she did; you couldn't hear a word that she said, but she did. And I didn't realize what the issue was because we're not told any of the kids’ background, we just get a bunch of kids. Sometimes we have autistic kids, sometimes we have people that have communication disorders. We just really don't know, you just have to work with what you're getting.

I was like, "Wow, she's really quiet," and I had no idea what her background was. Then we're getting to the end, and she's the first one sharing, using a big voice, part of the team cheer. And the teacher turned and looked at me and she's like, "You know she's a self-selective mute, right?"  I'm like, "No. How would I know? Nobody told me that." She said, "She is. Can you believe this?" I was like, "I can't. That's amazing." And it's participation in programs like this that help kids address some of their issues, create a safe environment for that to happen.

Randomly, we get stories shared with us, if we're there at the right time and the right moment, where a coach will remember to tell us this is actually a major milestone happening here. That you're just not witnessing the every-day, but that it would only be happening because of this opportunity. 

So we know that it's helping kids, and we have all of this stuff. We're getting ready to go and do a bigger, deeper dive into evaluation to tell our stories. At SCORES Cup, we're going to have a SCORES alumni team for the first time ever. It will be mixed with kids and former coaches, because we're still just beginning to try and figure out how to reach out to our alumni. We have a young man right now who's a sophomore at Carmen High School that was a former SCORES kid at Lincoln Avenue, and he's volunteering at Lincoln Avenue School right now. 

So we do see these kids come back into the program. We have some alumni that are working for us as coaches, and they'll be here and they're starting to connect to others. Hopefully we're going to use them, try to help us get our feelers out and figure out more. I do know a large group of the kids go to Reagan High School and play soccer at Reagan, especially the girls. We're hoping to try to get down there and get that accounted for a little bit better this year. 

It's been a really crazy ride from one school of 40 kids, to three schools of 90, to 2,000 last year across 25 schools with all different programming that we’ve had. We have the 10 core schools that we have been doing all this time, and then all these other programs. We did P.E school day support last year, so we are trying to do fill the gap programming with MPS. That's been nice, and I think we'll be doing more of that in the upcoming school year.

Those are the weird, crazy things, and then we do off-shoot stuff too. Milwaukee Kickers is launching a new region this spring at the Hmong Peace Academy, and that’s because we were doing P.E. support.So we were like, "Where do you guys play soccer" "Well, we don't." "Do you want to?" And we sat down with the school. We’re sort of speaking to or addressing that U.S. Soccer Federation directive, How are we going to get out there and serve kids in a different way. This model, I think, is going to be really effective, probably through charter schools or religious schools.

Is there grant funding available?

There isn't. There is a little bit of funding; I’m sure there will be a bit more once we figure it out. That whole process of online registration doesn't work for everybody. Also, paying upfront, even though we say there are scholarships and payment plans, a lot of these communities are cash communities. 

So we’re like, "All right, then how are we going to deal with this?" There was always an excuse for why we couldn't – the state wants to stay on online registration, blah blah blah. Well, we’ve got to get around this, because otherwise it's never going to happen. So we are working with the school, and the school actually is coordinating it all – they are the region, at 84th and Hampton.

These are the things that happen when you are out in the space and you are working in all these other areas. You’re able to form partnerships and try to fill needs and see what you can do to make happen. Because, you know, there is a cost to free. It doesn't matter how you want to put it, everybody can say they are offering free programming but there are still expenses that are tied to it, especially if you are going to have some kind of consistency and quality. And so how do you make sure that you have that without overtaxing the community you are trying to help?

It's a lot easier than people would think. You just have to be ready to let go of your conventional thought process. And I think that's probably the whole thing about SCORES. I'm a soccer person but I had to take a step back from that because that wasn't really what this whole point is.

It’s sort of sports-adjacent; the soccer is a nice carrot to get kids involved in the other programming. 

Yeah. When I grew up, having the confidence from being part of a team helped me in the other aspects of my life that maybe I wasn't as confident in going through school. It always gave me something to look forward to. And, really, that's all I was striving for from the beginning – how can I make that happen for other kids? How can these kids have the same experience my kids living in the North Shore have? Because I see what benefits they’re gaining from it, and why shouldn't everybody have that same access? 

And I think it works. We have this wonderful representative of our organization who is a junior at Marquette University. She went to DSHA, she's a SCORES coach. Was SCORES the only thing that helped her? No, but it definitely set the stage for her and she can, without any prompting, tell you what the parts of SCORES were that she was able to build on going forward to help her be where she is right now. She is only 21, so she’s only going to keep growing. And the more kids who have access to that, the better we are going to be over time.

That sport-for-social-good youth development space feels like its growing. Anecdotally, we know going outside and running around and being part of a team is good for kids, but now it seems like there is clinical research and data supporting the benefits, healing trauma, improving the methods.

Yes, definitely. And now people are like, "OK, yes, we will take a look at this again," For years, I basically had to hide the soccer part in my grant writing (laugh). And people would say, "Oh, you’re the soccer person," almost sort of almost mean. I was like, yes, we want kids to think that, 100 percent, we are the soccer people, but we’re way more than that. And that's cool for us, we don't look at it negatively. But now, all of a sudden, like you said, people are like, "Oh, yes, you know, sports does do good things."

For a while, it was pushed into, like, the soft skills area. But the soft skills are really what you need to navigate life. Because if you don't have those, you probably can't get too much further ahead in all the other things that you need to accomplish. You'll just tank yourself along the way.

Besides participation numbers, are you guys able to track different types of data and statistics to see what your impact has been and how you can improve it?

We have academic data, we have health outcomes, we have engagement, but what we don't have is the longitudinal story. We don't currently offer anything after fifth grade – we are going to, I think, soon be offering middle school as an extra option – so what's our story? What's our impact? Like, here is our annual impact on a kid in 2006, but where is the kid in 2010?

So what we are hoping to do – this is our summer plan, because we are not doing as much summer program as we usually do – is to connect with an evaluation firm and work with MPS. Because we have that kid's name and MPS has that data, if we get the right permission and get somebody to do the numbers, we should be able to track and say did the kid graduate high school? What was their behavioral performance? What were their grades and attendance like? 

And then, were they involved in anything after school? It doesn't have to be soccer; it could be anything, but were they engaged? Was there engagement, did they have good behavior, did they graduate? 

We are going to be looking to tell that story and say, over the years, this is the percentage of our kids that have gone on and at least graduated high school. Because that's really what we hope to say that we can accomplish. Beyond that, icing on the cake is when we see those kids. I think we will be able to tell that story. Right now, we don't have it written down, but we run into kids who are working at Sobelman’s and they’re like, "Hey, Coach Kate, how are you doing? I'm at UWM." 

That's not a statistic that I can really share in a grant. So, I'm going to need that, but I actually know it's there. We just need to have to have the capacity. Milwaukee is not a really great city for this tracking because of open school enrollment. Most of our schools were K-5 schools. So once those kids could choose what middle school they were going to, we’d never see them again. We have no idea; they could be anywhere in the city. So it's not that easy, which is why we hadn't been able to launch a middle school program because there was no central location to bring them back to. We tried, but transportation and everything was an issue.

The North Side schools are K-8, so we're going to try and see if we can do some middle school stuff next year with a finance literacy and soccer program. So a little different, kind of making kids feel a bit more like big kids. I think that, over time, from year to year, we can say this is our academic improvement, this is our attendance, all of that. But we want to be able to tell a long-term story here pretty soon, so that people will understand the need to keep it going and the impact that we have, so we wouldn't want to leave the city.

Milwaukee Kickers has this huge, far-reaching apparatus that allows you to gain access to different places and also support the program. In the partnership between Kickers and SCORES, how do you guys utilize each other and what are the benefits for both sides?

Oh, yeah. We probably have the sweetest deal – mutual – that any two non-profits could have. Because we're here for kids, and it happens to be around soccer. So, Milwaukee Kickers holds the licensing agreement with the National Office of America SCORES, and basically Milwaukee Kickers has agreed to be the fiscal agent of this organization. The Board has adopted it as a program, and there is a financial commitment that Kickers donates every year and then also the in kind of the space and all of that.

Administratively, for SCORES, the benefit is that the dollars that we raise go to the program, which is great. When you donate to SCORES, your money is going to kids. It's not going to admin. Kickers works the deal out with us that, some of our administrative costs, we give back to the club by working events. I'm a regional director, so I spend a lot of time volunteering. And we try to coordinate these outside programs, like building a region in HAPA. 

We're always trying to say, "Oh hey, did you know this community's looking? What can we do?" So we're constantly trying to figure out how can we serve more kids at low cost? And it doesn't always have to be SCORES – SCORES is great, and.I'm going to push that – but together we can say what are the other ways we can do it? And that’s how we got into P.E., how we've done City Kicks, why we were at Sherman Park last year at night doing free programming the first six weeks.

Those are the kind of things that the organization says, "We believe in this. That soccer for social good is just as important as pay-to-play, and we're going to work together with America SCORES to make that happen for all of us." Some of the kids are going to feed into this program, and we work on that too to make it happen. We have some SCORES kids that are on the youth academy teams here. We're always trying to keep both parties connected and engaged to make sure that we're able to serve as many kids as we can. 

I think the two missions are similar enough that we can pretty much work together in the space and not have a competition, because we're basically doing separate things but at times we can figure out how to cross over and share the staff. We all work together to make sure that everybody's programs are succeeding. I think that way it's been really great. We could never trade this partnership ever, for anything, because it was critical in the beginning, when the only dollars I raised the first year was $10,000 from the Petit Foundation to now, where we are a really big organization.

The support that we get to keep doing this work is really important, especially in a small city market with limited resources. People don’t like to hear it, but there’s a finite number of corporate sponsors and foundations here, that’s just the way it is and so there's a lot of competition for dollars. But at some point, I just don't feel as scared as some of my other small-city counterparts like Cleveland or St. Louis that don't have a big partner.

We're the only ones that have this model. It really is interesting. People try to figure it out. But there's not an entity as big as Kickers in other states. They have clubs and they have their State Association but they don't have a club of this size, I think, with the internal capacity to take on something like this. Because there's a lot of moving parts and there's a lot of the non-sexy expenses, like insurance and things like that to operate. MPS has a huge requirement for the type and amount of insurance coverage you need to have to operate. A little organization has a hard time making that happen.

For the most part it's clean here in that way; the donations are to SCORES, for SCORES, and I think that helps a lot. It's always good conversations about what's going on. There's so many people here in the world of soccer that have a global view. And you need that because soccer for social good is small here in the United States, compared to what's going on across the world. It's nice when you have people from different countries that also work here in this club. They're able to impress upon that – what do you really need to have kids play soccer? What you need is a couple of people to get out there and be supportive around kids. Give kids a ball and they'll be fine. But you have to let go of some types of the traditional sense of how that should look.

I think that partnership for us has definitely been invaluable. I can't imagine it really any other way and, lucky for me, I don't have to.

You mentioned possible expansion; what’s next for SCORES Milwaukee?

We usually announce something at SCORES Cup; it’ll probably be that we hope to have a middle school launch next year. It's not funded yet, we haven't vetted the program. Other cities are using it, so we'll see. 

Or Waukesha. We've been in some discussions with Waukesha; they would love the program. We can't launch it the way we did here in MPS where everything was free. Can't operate like that anymore. It's not free. So, we've given the district what it would cost and what we would match if they would come in. I don't know if that's going to happen but we're still trying to figure out to see if we can get some grant funds. 

Waukesha SCORES would be something that we're very interested in getting started with the right amount of support. We have the four schools and we have the principal buy-in and the district buy-in, now we just have to find the funding. If we could get that going, that would be amazing. And the easiest. That also was brought up because a principal from our original school, Windlake, moved out into the Waukesha District and wanted it. We actually have two former SCORES people out there really promoting that. So we’re basically ready for that, it's just a matter of funding. 

There will be expansion, we just have to see where, when and how it will look like. Middle school will be small; there'll be a soft launch, probably just the three North Side schools because they're the only ones that have middle school kids. And maybe one South Side because Hayes Bilingual has a middle school, and we have enough kids there that have been with us before. We may get a four-school launch for that, or a big district move out to Waukesha, in addition to Milwaukee County. 

That would be exciting. I would really like for that to happen. We're typically like a toddler with a big head, kind of just lurching. And we typically would lurch into Waukesha, but we're really being constrained about it this. Because we could have started; we would have taken a hit, but we would have. Normally our passion drives us over there, and we're like, "Oh, we'll worry about the dollars later." Just not doing it that way this time.

Because we have never not continued a program at a school that we've started. We don't want to start that with this Waukesha thing. And a big four-school launch is a little more wieldy than adding one school unbudgeted at a time. Yeah, but if that happens, I think that will feel quite good to have something going on.

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.