organization's eclectic mix of programs 'scoring' points with cleveland students

Soccer, creative writing and volunteerism might seem like an odd mix, just don't tell that to the students helped by America SCORES Cleveland, an organization that has been providing unique after-school programming for almost 10 years.

The local chapter of America SCORES, which launched in 2004, serves more than 500 youths in 10 Cleveland public schools. The program is designed to create "poet-athletes" through an innovative triple threat of soccer, poetry and service learning, says executive director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.
The tri-curricular approach creates well-rounded students, maintains Pence-Meyenberg. Soccer was chosen for its accessibility and minimal equipment needs. Writing and performing poetry, meanwhile, gives youths an emotional outlet and promotes creative thinking. Finally, volunteerism instills in children a sense of compassion, social responsibility and personal worth.

"We want urban youth to lead healthy lives and be involved in their community," says Pence-Meyenberg.

Public school students in grades three through eight can stay engaged through sports and creative writing, notes the chapter head. Participants also choose their own neighborhood-based service projects, like working at a community garden or raising money for Haitian earthquake victims.

On June 22, Cleveland's student-poets will collaborate with Cleveland artists during an event at 78th Street Studios. The Inspired Art Project will showcase the poetry of local youths through original artwork from Cleveland creatives, with sales of these items going to America SCORES. The program, along with the other activities America SCORES offers, can have a positive impact on the culture of an entire school district.

"Our kids and becoming healthier and more engaged," Pence-Meyenberg says.

SOURCE: Debi Pence-Meyenberg
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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