Playworks Northern California celebrates Women Leaders who have contributed to the Power of 25 years of Play.
During this month, meet remarkable female leaders who strive to ensure that every student on the playground feels valued and heard. Throughout Southern California, these women have contributed to empowering students, especially young girls, to get in the game. Each has observed a lack of girls getting involved in playground games and sports and has gone above and beyond to promote girls getting to benefit from playing. According to the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports “If a girl doesn’t play sports by age 10, there is less than a 10 percent chance she’ll be involved in sports at age 25.” Play is foundational for development, and playing sports helps kids develop lifelong skills such as teamwork, social skills, leadership skills, and more. Each of these women has contributed to bridging the gap and taken the initiative to be the model for inclusive play through recess, and during developmental sports leagues – noncompetitive co-ed student teams designed to develop skills, provide a positive team experience, and ensure access to students who may not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in sports. For each of these role models, their personal mission is to showcase that play is inclusive.
Alyssia first joined Playworks five years ago. Born and raised in San Jose, CA, Alyssia always had a passion for working with kids. Playworks not only gave her that opportunity, it also allowed for a unique experience to teach kids social and emotional learning skills through play. As a Coach, she loves teaching kids the value of conflict resolution through games and how it has the power to shift the play culture of the playground.
As a Playworks Coach on the playground everyday, it’s important for Alyssia to show every student that there is a valued place for girls on the playground, in sports, and in their communities. She encourages female school staff to also get involved in recess basketball tournaments to further encourage young girls to try a sport they haven’t tried before. As a female leader on the playground, who once felt unheard, Alyssia has worked hard to utilize her voice on a playground to share and connect with her students, especially young female Junior Coaches. She teaches about the value of asserting yourself and emphasizing how their voices are important and valuable. She knows they are capable, hopes they feel proud of themselves as they develop their confidence and leadership skills, and hopes they also remember how much fun they have along the way.
Ashly has been a part of Playworks for the last five years. As a quiet elementary school student in San Jose, CA, Ashly attributes play as the primary, fun way she learned about other kids and how to make new friends. Her experience on the playground was a catalyst to her experience as a Playworks Coach and her ability to encourage shy kids to get in the game and build lasting bonds with peers.
Ashly strives to build a healthy, welcoming, and inclusive playground where all students feel able to join in play, especially young girls. As a Playworker, she is a leader who uses her voice to create a positive impact. Ashly hopes an increased sense of belonging encourages young girls to feel more comfortable to jump in and play. Now as Program Manager, Ashly is expanding her reach by mentoring coaches and helping them to also feel a sense of belonging and feel valued. She shares with coaches the best practices on how to create the conditions for healthy play, with the goal of enriching the lives of children at their schools.
Ashly hopes to continue to share the importance of play for the emotional and cognitive learning of students and challenging our communities to come together to play.
A lifelong Northern Californian, Leah began her nine-year Playworks journey after seeking a deeper connection to her passion for helping others through physical activity and building her connection to kids. Since joining Playworks as an AmeriCorps Coach in 2013, Leah has become a Program Manager, Certified Trainer, and is currently our Senior Program Manager. Throughout her time with Playworks, Leah has become a role model for leading in an inclusive and fun way, on and off of the playground.
During Leah’s time as an AmeriCorps member, she coached developmental sports leagues. She noticed many young girls were experiencing a consistent lack of encouragement and confidence to play sports. Though she had little experience in sports herself, Leah learned how to play basketball alongside her team. For Leah, as a female coach, it was important to show her team, especially the young girls, that play is not limited to certain people. She showed her team that all that matters when it comes to play is having fun. Leah hopes that through her partnership with schools, they have more resources to create safe and healthy play at recess, especially for young girls to get in the game.
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