Cleveland students compete in soccer and poetry in program dedicated to fitness and literacy (video)

June 6, 2018 GMT

Cleveland students compete in soccer and poetry in program dedicated to fitness and literacy (video)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – More than 1,000 young soccer players from Cleveland public schools are preparing for a June 21 competition where they will neither kick balls nor score goals.

The competitors, in this case, will be reading their poems.

The so-called Red Carpet Poetry Slam is part of a program designed by America SCORES, a nonprofit dedicated to improving fitness, literacy and communication skills among urban children.

Partnering with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, America SCORES offers the K-8 students a chance to play organized soccer on the condition they also participate in creative-writing instruction and regularly attend school.


Soccer is what attracts most of the children, program manager Kristen Tadese said in a recent interview. But many of the students discover that the poetry component also fulfills a need.

Aaliyah Hasan, an eighth grader at RG Jones School on Cleveland’s West Side, said she has struggled to gain acceptance from classmates who taunt her because she is of Middle Eastern descent and Muslim.

So Aaliyah and seven Poetry Slam teammates have used her story as the basis for a poem entitled “What Do You See When You Look at Me?” 

The subject matter for the writing assignments has changed dramatically since America SCORES began working with Cleveland students in 2004, said Jennifer Holder, the team coach at RG Jones.

Poems about students’ families or dreams for their futures have morphed over the years into verses about homelessness, racism, stereotyping, or police violence.

“These kids have a deeper understanding of what is going on in their communities than most people give them credit for,” Holder said. “They are not just writing about what they see on the news, they are opening up about personal experiences.”

You can check out some of the poems which will be performed above. If you would like to see more, tickets for the event at Ariel International Center, 1163 East 40th Street, are available here.