The Playworks Wisconsin Advisory Board is a group of change-makers who believe in the power of play and are active ambassadors 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.
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!”
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 measurable 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.”
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 well-being 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."
Workforce Planning Analyst, Aurora Health Care
Brad Yocum obtained his Bachelors and Masters in Business Administration from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. He joined Aurora Health Care in 2010 after completing his Bachelors. He worked in two different temporary positions his first year before joining the Human Resource team at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. He later moved into a Recruiter role and recruited for three different hospitals and Home Care services for the Greater Milwaukee Area handling entry to professional level positions. He is currently working as a Workforce Planning Analyst with Talent Acquisition to improve the hiring process, work on attraction, and move the organization to be proactive versus reactive with hiring.
"I’m not originally from Wisconsin and I have been looking at a way to give back to this community that I have grown to love. I first learned about Playworks through their kickball tournament and at that time, I had no idea the environment at school and during recess can be inactive, stressful, and unwelcoming which causes a negative impact to the children’s engagement in school. After learning more about Playworks and doing further research, I felt that Playworks has demonstrated success and importance for children to have a safe and active environment. Research has proven that active kids learn better and decrease negative behaviors. I’m proud to join the board and to start working with young professionals in the community to get them engaged and play an active role in their communities which will help lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.”
Managing Partner for SafeNet Consulting
Under Zepecki’s leadership since 2010, SafeNet has grown from six to 50+ employees with an expanded client roster to match, making SafeNet one of Milwaukee’s Fastest Growing Firms, two years running (Milwaukee Business Journal, 2014 & 2015).
“I love this city, we’re proud to have our company downtown, and I’m at the point in my life where it’s time to redirect some of my energy to giving back,” stated Zepecki. “When I visited a Playworks school and listened to the principal go on and on about how Playworks has transformed the playground and school climate, decreasing conflict, and office referrals down to almost nothing, I couldn't help but think about how this could contribute to more peace in our neighborhoods,” Zepecki added.