This fall, Playworks New England hired a new Program Director: Erica Sandelin! Erica joined the team with a plethora of experience, new ideas, and passion for the Playworks mission. Learn more about Erica through an interview with a fellow Playworker, Leah:
Leah: Where did you work before you came to Playworks?
Erica: My background is in special education and youth development! I worked for non-profit organizations, the state of Massachusetts, and Boston Public Schools in previous jobs. Most recently I worked as the District Director of Transition for BPS, and my job was to make sure the district provided fair and equitable education for students on an Individualized Education Plan. I also collaborated with state agencies and community partners to provide services to all students.
Leah: It sounds like you have done a lot of inclusion work in and around Boston. What does inclusion mean to you?
Erica: Inclusion means equity, it means having the opportunity to have equal access, access through education, access through community involvement and integration and activities. Inclusion to me also means educating families on what’s available for their children and helping them understand that there are no disability lines, everyone should have access to what’s available. If you’re breathing then you should have equal access to whatever everyone else has – that’s what inclusion is.
Leah: How does that tie into your work with Playworks?
Erica: A Playworks recess is a space where children are able to be creative and able to explore and step outside of their own expectations and other people’s expectations of them. Play is where they discover a lot of who they are, and where they can feel included no matter their background. Playworks circles those values of equity, creativity, discovery, and inclusion.
Leah: What brought you to Playworks?
Erica: So I moved to the United States from Haiti in 1975, and working here reminds me of when I came to this country and was learning a new culture and a new language. Being on the playground at the school was my happiest time during the day because that’s where I escaped the pressures of being in the classroom and having to fit in. That’s why the work that Playworks does is so dear to my heart, and what brought me here to this new role.
Leah: Do you still do work in Haiti?
Erica: Yes! My husband and I run a foundation called ““Aminatour Football Club De Mont Organise”, which we started in 2018. The foundation is all about empowering women and girls through the sport of soccer. Our first year, we started with 40 girls and now in our fourth year, we have 120 athletes that participate.
Leah: What have you enjoyed in your first month as the Playworks New England Program Director? And what are you most looking forward to?
Erica: I am loving the work because it’s a combination of my passion and my experience. Now I get to do what I love every single day with amazing, talented people – that’s my perfect world. What I’m looking forward to is seeing our team grow, building a lot of best practices, and being connected to multiple districts around New England. I’m excited about Playworks and our interest in special education. I’m excited that the community and schools get to see how valuable the social emotional skills that we’re building are. I’m excited to change the future by giving students the opportunity to gain social skills through fun, play, and recess. I guess I’m excited about a lot!
Leah: Is there anything else that you really want our readers to know about you?
Erica: I want people to know that I am a lifelong learner. I’m always learning. And I’m a person that was given an opportunity, and I want to do everything I can to open a door for someone else.