20182019 AmeriCorps Coaches


Julia Dornbusch

School: Peirce School of International Studies

Favorite Recess Game: Foursquare

Bio: Coach Julia is at Peirce Elementary this year as a full-time AmeriCorps member and first year Playworks coach. Originally from Boston, she recently graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa where she studied sociology and French with a minor in global development studies. Her previous work with youth includes 12 summers at overnight camp, as well as coaching and teaching in various communities. Outside of school, you can probably find her playing frisbee, looking for a dog to pet, or eating ice cream.


Melanie Claudio

School: Flex

Favorite Recess Game: Castle Ball

Bio: Coach Mel is from the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest side of Chicago. She studied exercise sport science at Judson University. She has a passion for service, sports, and youth. As a Playworks coach, she hopes to make every kid feel loved, valued, and cared for.



Tyrone Taliaferro

School: Hamline Elementary (Branch)

Favorite Recess Game: Wolves and Bunnies

Bio: After receiving a degree in sociology from the University of Illinois, Coach Ty joined Playworks in January of 2018 as a coach at Hamline Branch Elementary School. Throughout his career, Tyrone has focused on youth development through a college internship opportunity, at Don Moyer Boys & Girl’s Club as a teen coordinator, and at the Chicago park district as a recreation leader. Tyrone wants to continue to share knowledge with youth and maintain his role at his school as a positive role model for students.


Carly Siess

School: Shields Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Capture the Flag

Bio: The idea of service is not new to our Playworks coach at The National Teachers Academy this year. Through City Year, Coach Carly served as a tutor and mentor at The Howe School of Excellence for the past two years. Coach Carly is excited to spend her third AmeriCorps year inspiring and teaching students through the power of play.



Stella Taylor

School: Hefferan Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Magic Tag

Bio:  Coach Stella began with Playworks at Heffran Elementary as a part time coach in January 2019. A Wisconsin native, she graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2015 with degrees in dance, Spanish, and international studies. Over the last six years, she has taught multiple dance styles to ages ranging from 5-18. She continues to perform and teach dance around the Chicago area with Boom Crack! Dance Company. It is her goal to create a supportive and fun learning environment, and it brings her joy to see the kids smile and to make a positive difference in their day. She is excited to share her passion for teaching youth with Playworks and to create a safe, happy, and playful environment for all students at Heffran!



Zakaria Nadif

School: Chappell Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: 

Bio: This is Coach Zak’s first year as a Playworks coach! He studied biology at Augustana College, focusing on physical therapy. He previously worked in youth sports as a referee and coach for various sports. Zak enjoys staying active by swimming and playing basketball. You can also find him playing video games, watching Netflix, or eating spaghetti.



Andrew Brasher

School: Namaste Charter School

Favorite Recess Game: Foursquare

Bio: Andrew Ransom Brasher is probably not named after the Mel Gibson movie. He once bicycled from Los Angeles to New York by himself. Andrew likes to play music and basketball as often as possible.




Cassidy McGinnis

School: Monroe Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Championship Knockout

Bio: Coach Cassidy graduated from the University of Arizona last May where she studied care, health, and society & public health. She is passionate about community health and wants to focus her career on improving population health disparities. In her free time, she love’s to travel and stay active!



Makaia Barnes

School: Peterson Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Roshambo Rockstar

Bio: Coach Kaia is a Chicago and Evanston native in her second year as a coach with Playworks. Last year, she brought safe and healthy play to CICS Irving Park. Now she serves at Peterson Elementary.



Raven Ahrens

School: Boone Elementary

Favorite Recess Game: Wall Ball

Bio: Coach Raven graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in kinesiology. He is from Evanston, Illinois and he loves to explore Chicago. He has worked with children for over six years professionally and he hopes to become a physical education teacher in the future.