As we head into AmeriCorps Appreciation Week where we recognize, celebrate, and thank our members for their hard work and accomplishments throughout the year, it is humbling to remember to take a step back and review some of our favorite memories from the past.
Our members are thrown into an exciting, yet daunting, gauntlet at the beginning of their service: an unaccustomed school, unknown staff and teacher relationships, and the unfamiliarity of a new place at a new time. Yet, in programs across the country in hundreds of elementary schools and throughout thousands of recess sessions, Playworks thoughtfully fulfills our overall mission by facilitating safe, healthy, and inclusive play every day.
Here at Playworks North Carolina, our members continually strive to create an environment of respect, inclusion, healthy play, and healthy community in their school communities. This past October, one of our members reflected on one of his most impactful memories from his term of service. His memory starts with a description of an indoor fourth and fifth-grade student recess, where he surprised the rambunctious students with a fun game of trivia.
For this trivia game, Coach D split the students up into two teams and created random and challenging questions for each team to answer. He explains that most of the students were fully engaged in this tough and competitive challenge. But one student named James was in the back fiddling with his shoelaces as opposed to chiming in answers like the rest of the class. James has a form of autism, and Coach D worked hard to form a connection and bond with James throughout his recess periods, but maybe trivia just wasn’t James’ thing.
After a few rounds of trivia, the teams were tied up and a tiebreaker round was needed to settle the score. Coach D went with a tough question: “What does an entomologist study?” The students were silent until a small voice in the back screamed “INSECTS!” and it was James. With his answer, his team secured the lead. His team began cheering his name and began to encourage him to answer more questions. Through this moment, Coach D saw a spark of confidence and sense of inclusion in James that was unique to any other moment he had yet experienced at Playworks. It demonstrated to Coach D the tangible impact he was making on the lives of the students in his school.
Participating in any AmeriCorps program presents a set of unique challenges to each service member. In the end, however, memories like this become sources of motivation for the work done and the hours served. This week, Playworks North Carolina salutes our members and thanks them for their hard work. This touching story between Coach D and James can serve as a reminder across regions of why we do what we do and why Playworks exists. This moment is an evidentiary sign that #AmericorpsWorks.
Interested in becoming a Playworks AmeriCorps member? Learn more!