Playworks Wisconsin Advisory Board | Playworks

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Playworks Wisconsin Advisory Board

The Playworks Wisconsin Advisory Board is a group of change-makers who believe in the power of play and are active ambassdors for Playworks. These playful professionals contribute their personal time to share the mission of Playworks: to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.

Derek Pleasants

Vice President, BMO Global Asset Management

Playworks Wisconsin is pleased to welcome Derek Pleasants to the Advisory Board. Derek is a relationship manager with BMO Global Asset Management in Milwaukee, WI, specializing in institutional investments, custody, and retirement plans. He is a member of BMO’s Diversity Council and a coordinator for BMO’s North American Volunteer Day.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, Derek graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and now lives in Bayview. He has been active in several different local charities that focus on children and human needs. A fan of the outdoors, Derek enjoys camping and hiking at Wisconsin’s state parks. He is also a member of the Milwaukee Yacht Club and spends time boating on Lake Michigan.

“Play is an important part of a child’s development process, it aids in their cognitive, social, and emotional learning. But most of all, play is fun! And what kid doesn’t deserve to have some fun in their day. Playworks fulfills an important role in today’s schools, offering kids healthy interaction both in and out of recess. I am very pleased to be working with such a great organization and talented staff.”

Jami Burrell 

Shift Manager, General Mills

Jami serves as Shift Manager at General Mills in Milwaukee, WI. Jami received both her BA and MBA from the University of Iowa. After finishing school, Jami’s career began with General Mills in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From there, she moved to two other General Mills plant locations before settling at the Milwaukee location in May of 2000. In addition to her expected duties at General Mills, Jami leads the Community Action Council program. This program is an important part of General Mills’ commitment to the communities where it has business operations. The council’s goal is to help the company give back, both financially and through volunteer efforts, to their local manufacturing communities. Jami enjoys volunteering her time to various local area activities to help in the company’s mission to give back to the community. She is a long time partner of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a member of the Non-Profit Center’s business volunteer council, and also serves on the Advisory Board for City Year.

“I believe children are our future and that it is up to us to prepare them to lead the way.” When speaking about her passion for Playworks, Jami adds, “Playworks is a wonderful organization to help in that mission. They are doing it by teaching the kids not only how to play, but how to connect with others, and to grow physically, emotionally and socially. These are all important skills to lead each and every day throughout our lives. I am glad to be associated with an organization of this caliber!”

Myra Edwards

Senior Advisor to the Mayor on Workforce and Education

Myra Edwards is a Senior Advisor to Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee on workforce and education. Working with a number of thought leaders in metro Milwaukee has expanded her reach in serving jointly with Mayor Barrett on the Executive Committee of the Milwaukee Succeeds, the city’s-cradle to-career education initiative and with DataShare an intergovernmental data research consortium connecting children and their families. She was a collaborator in creating the city’s first youth intermediary and their genesis project, Beyond the Bell. She oversees the Mayor’s summer youth employment initiative, known as EARN & LEARN, which has put more than 27,000 Milwaukee teens in jobs since 2005. In 2011, the Mayor tasked her with creating the Mayor’s EARN & LEARN Fund which has made a summer job a reality through more than $5.4 million in contributions over its five previous summer-cycles.

Her history of serving the interests of children and youth began through her previous work with the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) school district. There, she served the board of school directors and executive administration in several posts in Transportation, Governmental Relations and Community Development. A native of Milwaukee and MPS graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a M.A. in Organizational Management, she is guided by a personal philosophy that seeks inspiration from the best in each individual, believing that through that brand of collective contribution, the community can and will be made whole.

“I was already aware of the good work of Playworks in MPS schools, but as I learned more about the research and the significant impact Playworks' programming has on children’s developing social and emotional well-being, my excitement grew. The aggressive scaling plan, the executive director’s energy, and the opportunity to help Playworks bring the spirit of play to adults through their corporate recess product moved me to accept being asked to be part of the Playworks board.”

Billie Jean Smith

Seasoned Intellectual Property Attorney and Equity Partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Billie Jean Smith is a seasoned intellectual property attorney and equity partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP where she aids clients in the preparation and implementation of strategies to achieve their desired business goals. She has been named to "IP Stars - Top 250 Women in IP" by Managing Intellectual Property, awarded the Marquette University Opus College of Engineering Service Award, and received the IAM Patent 1000 award for the World's Leading Patent Practitioners. Ms. Smith devotes her time and talents to many community organizations and charitable causes.

“When I saw the mission in action and learned when Playworks comes to a school bullying goes down, feelings of safety go up, physical activity goes up, student engagement throughout the day goes up, and teachers get measureable teaching time back, I knew I wanted to be part of this exciting time of expansion and scaling of the reach of Playworks. I am excited about my role to build awareness and attract the resources needed for us to achieve our AIM here in Wisconsin.”

Margaret Haagensen

VP Lending Operations, WaterStone Bank

Margaret Haagensen joined WaterStone Bank in 2006, bringing over 25 years of experience in mortgage banking. In her first year at WaterStone, she created underwriting guidelines and processes, bringing structure to the bank’s mortgage division. Her responsibilities grew to managing processes for all of the bank’s lending groups, consumer and mortgage underwriting, correspondent lending, and overseeing the lending systems administration. She is active in charitable and professional organizations, serving on several boards.

"Now, more than ever, I believe in the importance of supporting the causes that contribute to the success of our community and the wellbeing of our people. Academic studies have proven Playworks’ success at improving children’s positive behavior on and off the playground through promoting physical activity and emotional safety at school. Healthy, well balanced, educated kids are much more likely to grow up to be contributing members of our community. An investment in Playworks is an investment in our future."