Boston, MA–Feb. 22-23, 2017–Playworks New England welcomed 150 fourth and fifth-grade students, representing 29 Boston Public Schools and five schools in Somerville, during the nonprofit’s ninth annual Junior Coach Leadership Convention at Northeastern University. Participating students, who are Playworks Junior Coaches, led their peers on the playground during recess for the nonprofit. They engaged in organized games and activities to develop leadership skills to be used during school, at home, and in their communities.
This year, our AmeriCorps members played a large part in the success of the event. Members helped plan event logistics and served as chaperones, getting the students to the convention via public transportation. Additionally, our AmeriCorps members served as true role models to these youth leaders. The Junior Coaches were able to see the AmeriCorps members working together as a team, communicating effectively, and setting goals in order to have a successful event.
During the two-day event, Playworks staff, volunteers and other special guests led students in organized skill-building games and activities across campus. The goal of the two-day event was to keep students socially, emotionally, and physically engaged while providing them with the opportunity to play with their peers during their school vacation in February.
On the first day, Eliza Shirazi and Adelle Girvan of Kick-It By Eliza kicked off the two-day event with a fun-filled kickboxing class followed by a discussion about the importance of inclusion and bullying prevention. In the afternoon, 15 Playworks New England AmeriCorps program coordinators broke students into five different groups to engage in anti-bullying conversations. During this time, Playworks Junior Coaches discussed their roles as leaders in and out of school and ways in which they can reinforce positive sporting behavior during recess. In addition, they developed life maps and shared their current and future goals.
On the second day, varsity student-athletes from Northeastern University and a member of the Boston Renegades professional women's team participated in a panel on sports and leadership. They shared how their experiences playing sports have shaped them into leaders on their teams, in the classroom, and in their communities. Panelists emphasized the importance of engaging in positive extracurricular activities and doing well both socially and academically in school. The event concluded with a student scavenger hunt across campus, leading Junior Coaches to explore classrooms, lecture halls, the library, and student store. Official campus tours were also provided by Northeastern University tour guides.
“This year’s Junior Coach Leadership Convention was a great success,” says Jonathan Gay, Playworks New England executive director. “Our Junior Coaches participated in many skill-building activities and conversations that will enable them to become better leaders in school and in life. For many students, this was the first time visiting a college campus and we hope we have inspired them to pursue a college education and achieve their dreams.”
Since 2006, Northeastern University has been Playworks New England’s premiere collegiate partner. Northeastern students volunteer at Playworks schools during recess and the university’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams participate in the nonprofit’s after-school sports leagues.
The Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), established in 1991, is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as the state commission on service and volunteerism. MSA promotes and supports service and volunteerism by investing public and private resources in community-based organizations that rely upon volunteers and people engaged in service to meet their community's needs. MSA administers the AmeriCorps State program for Massachusetts and the Commonwealth Corps program, as well as support for community service learning, and volunteer generation initiatives.