“I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.”
At the beginning of every service term, Playworks North Carolina comes together for two weeks of intensive training for our incoming AmeriCorps Members. We play games, get to know one another, and tackle a number of training sessions to prepare our coaches for their year of service ahead.
One of these trainings is a comprehensive Introduction to AmeriCorps training. During this session, we touch on the history of AmeriCorps and paint a picture of their service term in the broader landscape of all community service efforts happening across the country. At the end of this training, we ask our coaches to stand. Together, they recite the AmeriCorps Pledge, beginning with “I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.”
From this mission statement, it’s clear why Playworks has a longstanding partnership with AmeriCorps. Playworks continually strives to create an environment of respect, inclusion, healthy play, and healthy community at schools every day. Our Playworks coaches make an impact on their schools and the broader community every single day. Every year, during AmeriCorps Week, we recognize, celebrate, and thank our members for their hard work and accomplishments throughout the year.
During the 2017-18 school year, thanks to our AmeriCorps State Formula grant awarded by the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, Playworks North Carolina has 10 part-time AmeriCorps Members that are serving at nine schools across the state. Since August, our 10 members have provided over 5,000 hours of programming at their service sites and in various community service projects.
One of our AmeriCorps members, Coach M, has truly blossomed into an amazing leader within his school community throughout the year. Coach M comes to Playworks with a background in social work and working as a summer camp counselor. During preservice, Coach M was one of our more soft-spoken coaches, clearly beaming with potential but shy to share his ideas in front of his larger group of peers.
Like all first time Playworks’ coaches, Coach M was thrown for a whirlwind in his first few weeks at his school, balancing multiple playgrounds, sixty to seventy excited students at once, and changing recess blocks. Coach M struggled to implement typical Playworks systems such as class cones, openings and closing to ease transitions, and play spaces with clear boundaries.
However, once Coach M built rapport with both teachers and students, he quickly began to flourish. With the additional help of his Junior Coaches, Coach M has turned recess around at his school to be a safe space where kids play together and solve issues on their own using conflict-resolution strategies.
Around the mid-year winter break, the Principal at Coach M’s school emailed his Program Manager: “I wanted to brag on Coach M for a moment. He took off from his second job yesterday in order to attend our Polar Express Event after school and stayed even later to attend our PTA meeting. He was so helpful and this reflects that he is a true part of our staff. We love Coach M!”
Despite some growing pains at the beginning of the year at a first-time AmeriCorps school, Coach M never lost sight of his role and the goals he wanted to accomplish. By making and developing connections within his school community, Coach M has become an integral part of the school staff, being both a leader and role model for his students.
Another story worth noting comes from Coach K. Within the first month of programming at her school, a specialist teacher approached Coach K in the hallway after seeing her Playworks sweatshirt and AmeriCorps lanyard.
The specialist teacher went on to explain that during testing for 2nd grade students, the students were asked to write an essay about a role model. The teacher proudly explained to Coach K that one 2nd grader wrote how she wanted “to be like Coach K when she grows up so she could help kids have fun, be safe, and be happy.” Sometimes, it’s stories like this that remind our Coaches why their service term is so important.
Coach M and Coach K have both consistently gone above and beyond to create an inclusive school community and become role models at their service sites. Both coaches are just a snapshot of our amazing cohort of 10 outstanding leaders: our coaches, who are working hard to get things done, and to make people smarter, safer, healthier, and more playful!
Playworks has the power to bring out the best in every kid. We are so grateful for our AmeriCorps members who have chosen to serve their communities through our organization.
#GettingThingsDone #AmeriCorpsWorks #Playworks
Interested in becoming a Playworks AmeriCorps member?