Playworks Illinois is celebrating AmeriCorps week by highlighting one of our AmeriCorps Coaches, Shamerea Richards. Coach Shay is a first-year coach serving at James N. Thorp Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree in Corporate Communication from Eastern Illinois University and returned to the city to help strengthen the Chicago Public School system. Prior to joining Playworks as an AmeriCorps Coach, Shamerea spent a year supervising teens in arts and community engagement at the University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life.
Here is what she had to say about her experiences both as a coach and as an AmeriCorps member:
How was I was feeling walking into my school on the first day? Nervous and anxious was an understatement. I wasn’t with my Playworks team, but I knew in my heart that I was more than ready and prepared to take on anything that my school had in store for me.
This was my first year as an AmeriCorps Coach at a first-year Playworks school, trying to help strengthen recess and keep kids active and engaged. As a new coach in a newly partnered school, I knew that everything that was new to me was also new to them. We were learning together. I knew that it would be difficult to get staff, parents, administrators, and most importantly, students on board with our core values and mission. But, what I didn’t know was that as much as I was teaching my school the power of play, my school was teaching me the power of passion.
As I approached a group sixth through eighth graders, I was nervous to say anything to the older kids at first, but then I began to ask them about high school and excitedly they all responded by telling me where they were going and classes they wanted to take. They even asked me about my experience. Once I told them that I was a Chicago native who grew up not too far from their neighborhood and that I went to college after working hard, they began to look at me differently. They looked at me like I was someone bigger. That’s when I knew that my passion was vital; not only because of the work that I do but because of who I am and how important it is for kids that look like me to see me doing something in their communities. Here I was, a coach destined to deliver the message of safe and healthy play getting taught how to be a better leader every day from her students.
I have hope and passion for teaching youth in Chicago that there is a better path to success: school. It is a hard road but it's worth it. I hope to instill in my students that they can do anything they put their minds to.
Interested in becoming a Playworks AmeriCorps member? Learn more!