Written by Marisa Carrasquillo, member of the Playworks New England Leadership Council.
Service has always been part of who I am. While I spend my days working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts as a Product Management Specialist and in a research lab at Regis College (where I’m also pursuing my Master of Public Health degree), I always make sure that I make time to give back to my community. At Kids in Need of Defense and Day Dream, located in Cape Cod, I volunteer as a Spanish interpreter and serve on the fundraising committee for The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. I also have been serving on the Playworks Leadership Council, which is a group of 15 young professionals committed to the Playworks mission, for approximately six years.
Play was an important part of my childhood since my parents discouraged electronics and encouraged me to play outside as much as possible. I loved recess as a kid (my favorite game was kickball) so when I found out about Playworks, I knew that I wanted to find some way to get involved.
My involvement with the Leadership Council began when I volunteered in 2015 at the Leahy School in Lawrence, cleaning and repainting the school playground. A year later, Blue Cross offered a speed-dating event between nonprofits and Blue Cross employees with the intent of matching employees with a non-profit volunteer opportunity. Playworks’ mission to help kids stay active in school and build valuable social-emotional skills through play is what attracted me to the Leadership Council, and after witnessing the Playworks Coaches’ dedication to their students and the impact they have, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this work.
The Leadership Council has the unique ability to support the Playworks team by providing consultations, volunteering at fundraising events, and running annual coach development sessions. Our work positively shapes the future of the Coaches, Junior Coaches, schools, and communities, which is one of the reasons that I am proud to work with Playworks.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our Playworks contact reached out to me and another council member with a request: to help translate the Playbook into Spanish to support Spanish-speaking families and students. Being able to use my skills to support my community was one of my proudest moments on the Leadership Council, and it was truly an honor to witness Playworks’ impact beyond the schools.
This year for our Coach Professional Development workshop, the Leadership Council conducted a Job Skill and Career Readiness Workshop. Our breakout rooms focused on LinkedIn and resume building, mock interviews, and career aspirations. As young professionals, being able to use our skills to educate Coaches who serve their schools every day is such a great opportunity. Every year is a new experience, and it is always rewarding to get to meet the Coaches, discuss their future plans, and talk with them about the skills they are acquiring in their current role and how those skills will apply in their careers.
I believe that through serving others, you begin a domino effect that positively impacts your community. My dedication to service is the result of people helping my parents when they were children, so when I grew up my parents ensured that I understood the importance of service and giving back to others, and now I serve in multiple roles to give back to the communities that shaped me into who I am. As I said, it’s a domino effect.
Working with the Playworks team, who has the same level of dedication to students in New England as I do, is one of the things I love the most, and being able to visit a Playworks recess is a beautiful reminder of how important the power of play is for children. I believe that everyone should look for a chance to serve, and I’m so thankful that I get to serve with Playworks.