Friday, February 20, 2015

The Book Zone

By Amanda Hutchins, Creative Writing Major at San Francisco State University

It's a Friday afternoon in front of San Francisco's City Hall; the sun is shining and the breeze is slight, which is good for me as I'm displaying no less than 60 children's books. This is my typical Friday afternoon: this is the Civic Center Book Zone courtesy of America Scores.

The amazing part of the Book Zone is not just that it offers a free, donated book for every participant, nor that the books range from top hits like Artemis Fowl to classics like The Boxcar Children; no, the amazing part of Book Zone is what it produces. The Book Zone has transformative powers.  It must, as I've seen kids go from refusing to take a book to being unable to decide between several, asking if I can save a book on rainforest animals so no one else grabs that particular literary prize before them. Two seasons ago the teams would arrive from the surrounding area and cautiously skirt around the tarp of books and boxes turned to shelves. It didn't seem to matter how the books were presented. To this day, the presentation still doesn't matter much, but these days teams arrive and rush to scout out the book options, some too eager to even drop their backpacks. 

The Book Zone, as it is extends even beyond the world of SCORES: there are many instances when the books have just finished being spread out into a buffet of stories when a mother or aunt or grandfather will come up and ask how much the books are being sold for. Alternatively, curious by-passers who range from the homeless to small wedding parties ask for an explanation of what's going on. After an explanation nearly every one of these people break into a smile and declare hopes of success for the program.

I've always known that reading and even mere access to books was beneficial to both the individual and the community. The Book Zone seems to act as qualitative evidence that access to books promotes literacy, an interest in reading and writing, and ultimately betters a community.

You can find Amanda matching young readers with their new favorite books at the Civic Center each Friday.  She also inspires youth during the week as a writing coach and coordinator for poetry projects and performances.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Healthy Perspective

Reflection by Jennifer Trana, San Francisco State University Health Intern

Interning at America SCORES Bay Area was a fulfilling experience and definitely self-rewarding. I had the pleasure of working with staff members who are truly passionate about their work and the community they serve. They were inspiring and motivating and pushed me to greater limits. 

I was mainly focused on the “Chat and Chew” component of the program hosted every Saturday at game days. I co-facilitated nutritional workshops for SCORES families who would come out each week to cheer-on their soccer players.  While parents were on the sidelines, we would provide them with information and samples of healthy food alternatives. It was an honor working and getting to know families of students in the program. 

Being Latina, I was able to relate to a majority of the community SCORES serves. Growing up, there were so many delicious yet unhealthy foods in my household, and I know it can be so hard to alter your ways after many years. However, being involved with this organization, we were able to create healthier and relatable food choices such as our quesadillas and veggie pizzas, that many families enjoyed. Parents were constantly asking for our recipe cards and stated that they will be taking these recipes to their kitchens, as I too have. Knowing and demonstrating to families that you do not necessarily have to give up what you like to eat healthier was definitely something I took away from my SCORES experience. Hearing multiple stories of parents stating that their child asks for some of the recipes at home or are actually eating vegetables is a great feeling because it shows our message is making a positive impact.

Build-your-own pita pizza sponsored by Bi-Rite 
I also worked as a literacy and soccer coach at Paul Revere Elementary School, and I absolutely loved it! Working with children is something that I always enjoyed because they are so filled with energy and positivity. Anytime a student was down, another teammate was there to pick her up. Before SCORES, I had never played soccer in my life, but after going to training days and watching students pour their heart out at practice and on the field, I developed a newfound respect for the game. The technique, teamwork, and leadership skills that the students posses is truly amazing and inspiring. My experience at SCORES was truly a pleasure and an organization that I fully support.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bringing Hope, Fun, and Soccer to the Western Addition and Tenderloin Kids

By Roberto Gil, Civic Center Soccer League Program Director

It is increasingly difficult for inner-city kids who live or study within Downtown San Francisco to play outdoor activities since there are not that many fields near them. Kids grow up playing on blacktop and very few public schools have gyms or offer organized sports at the elementary level.  For those of us who grew up playing sports outdoors (whether it was on nice grass or plain dirt), we know that they are missing that natural and adventurous feeling of falling on the grass or getting dirt in their shoes. Even more, many of these kids miss the benefits of playing organized and well structured team sports and the positive outcomes of playing on a team: developing a sense of belonging, learning how to work with others, learning new skills, and learning how to deal with winning and losing.

When trying to offer their students the possibility of playing on a team, after school coordinators face different types of obstacles, the most common being funding.  This has a domino effect on their program, for they cannot afford to hire extra staff members, uniforms, equipment, or transportation to the nearest fields.

At the center of this problem lies the kid who deserves to play, to move, to laugh, to wear their very own jersey and feel part of a team, and who needs to learn important life values that team sports, when conscious and well administered, can provide: teamwork, leadership, commitment, fair-play, and an active lifestyle.

Nevertheless, many after school coordinators from the Tenderloin, Western Addition, and Chinatown Districts are aware of the vital role that sports plays in kids' lives.  America SCORES Bay Area (ASBA) is taking a lead in this matter and, with the collaboration of S.F. Rec & Parks and Coaching Corps, ASBA's Civic Center Soccer League (CCSL) is expanding this year to bring together elementary school boys and girls teams from neighborhoods where outdoor field space is sparse.

As a Program Director for the CCSL, I feel blessed to be part of this important chapter for ASBA as we bridge communities and find the necessary solidarity amongst our staff, volunteers, after-school coordinators, community partners, and coaches to work through many obstacles so kids can have a chance to play on a soccer team. At the same time we are building a family-friendly, healthy environment at the heart of the city.  Childhood education, healthy habits, civic engagement, and community-building are defining characteristics of San Francisco.  What better place to further this ethos?

Have a couple hours on a Friday afternoon? 

Get out and play with us!  We are always on the lookout for soccer coaches and referees to jump in and oversee weekly games from 3:30-5:15pm.

To volunteer, contact Shannon at

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Character and Impact of a Foundation(al) Leader

On Throwback Thursday, we'd like to take it back to this year's Legacy Awards at AT&T Park, where we celebrated visionary leaders in San Francisco's philanthropy realm.  Former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos offered a vivid introduction to the foundation that has supported America SCORES Bay Area and countless other important community programs that exist to level the playing field and cast a wide net of support for San Francisco's families. The Louis R. Lurie Foundation Trustees, including well-known philanthropist and former Giants owner Bob Lurie, are an inspiration. Art gave us permission to publish his introduciton below:

Louis R. Lurie Foundation Introduction
America SCORES Legacy Awards
Art Agnos
June 4, 2014

Art Agnos introduces the Louis R. Lurie Foundation at the 2014 Legacy Awards 

I welcome the opportunity to join America Scores in honoring the Louis R. Lurie Foundation.

This night is special because it is the first time in a 50-year history of service to the community that the Lurie Foundation has ever agreed to this kind of public recognition.

And America Scores, under the leadership of its founder and director Colin Schmidt, is exactly the kind of non-profit organization doing marvelous work in our schools with our kids in integrating soccer, poetry, and service learning that the Louis R. Lurie Foundation brings to public attention.

I know first hand because my neighborhood elementary school on Potrero Hill is the beneficiary of its Field of Dreams Initiative, and I see the kids on that field every day. 

It is most fitting that we meet here tonight at AT&T park.

Baseball and the Lurie name go together in San Francisco where the public knows Bob best for saving the Giants and for his leadership teams in baseball.  But long before that, Bob has been creating superb teams in the business world with the Lurie Company. 

And in tonight’s focus we pay tribute to an extraordinary philanthropic team as manifested by the Louis R. Lurie Foundation where Bob serves with his Fellow Trustees as “first among equals.”

Bob and Connie have always been among the most generous people in our country; however, they never want or accept a lot of attention for it.  But tonight, I have the mike, and so I am going to be a little more personal than these events usually allow.

I first met Bob as a candidate for mayor of San Francisco in 1987 when I was an underdog upstart at 15% in the polls. As a part of my campaign, I was opposing a proposal on the ballot to create a ballpark at 7th and Townsend Streets several blocks from here to the west where the view in centerfield would be the I-280 freeway.

I made a courtesy call to Bob and told him that we could do better than that, and if I won he would be the first person I called to begin that effort.  I won and I did call him, and the rest is history right here.

This was the site and this was the design he approved. Because of an earthquake, it took a little longer than both of us hoped, but this is the same park we envisioned in 1989 when we stood where the Willie Mays statue is today to make some big decisions for San Francisco.

Four years later, I got beat and left office.  That was hard for me.

Now, when you are the mayor, you meet a lot of people, important people, who become “friends.” When you lose and are no longer the mayor a lot of people who became your “friends” just disappear! Never hear from them again.

Not with Bob Lurie…it was just the opposite. Frankly, while I was mayor Bob was an important business relationship for me, not a friend. 

HE chose to become a friend after I lost. He didn’t disappear.

Bob Lurie

As my friend, we have travelled together with our wives around the world and socialized together often. Bob and I even slept together…(I know what I said).  It was a two-man tent at the Bohemian Grove because he thought it was a good cultural enrichment experience for a liberal politician like me.

By the way, Bob is not perfect.  The only exception to the unqualified warmth and loyal friendship I have felt for the past 22 years- the ONLY exception is when we were partners in a $5 golf match against Gene Valla and Bishop Swing, and I missed a 2 foot putt to win.

Now what does all this personal stuff have to do with tonight’s honoree: the Louis R. Lurie Foundation? 

One word: Values.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring & Poetry in the Air... April is National Poetry Month

By Jess Bouchard, America SCORES Program Manager and resident 'Poet'!

In a fairly isolated part of Burton High School, KALW radio station resides, welcoming in the voices of the San Francisco community. More recently, 18 of our poet-athletes join these voices, as each read their poems over the airwaves in preparation for April, National Poetry Month.

The morning of the event, our students arrived early to the studio, beating SCORES staff because their excitement truly mesmerized these poets and their families.  KALW staff welcomed our early-comers with a similar delight: a common theme throughout the  day, and long after. 

While the waiting room overflowed with SCORES staff and coaches, family, strollers and eager on-lookers, Kevin Vance, Engineer, and Matt Martin, General Manager, gave students their first radio etiquette lessons, teaching them how to recognize proper distance between mouth and microphone (tip: Make a Hawaiian shaka or “hang loose” sign by extending your thumb and pinky, curling the rest of your fingers towards your palm. Now, bring your thumb to your lip and your pinky to the microphone: voila!); and how to be a professional radio reader, paying attention to their voice, breathing, and style.  Not only did the poets get the hang of it, they couldn’t get enough!

As I sat inside the studio with each student during their turn, offering comfort and poetry wisdom, the two of us, poet after poet, felt the magic in that confined glass space. Homages to the color blue were read, “Blue could be the sound of wind,/ It’s like a whisper…” (Sara Trujillo, Leonard Flynn Elementary School), and odes to moms “My mom is not like the rest/ If there is a test of beauty/ She passes every test" (Oscar Martinez, E.R. Taylor Elementary School) — just to remember a couple!  All morning, the beauty of poetry left our lips lingering like fireworks, and we all smiled wider and laughed brighter, understanding the loveliness a profound moment like this offers.

On a personal note, this event was the highlight of my career thus far. Coming to America SCORES after teaching middle school and college English for several years, I can’t pinpoint a moment in those years that mimics the overwhelming utter happiness I felt in those hours. Tune in to KALW 91.7 FM for the entire month of April to catch this special series! You’ll be enchanted, we promise! 

For the daily airwave schedule of our Radio Poets, visit