Meet Juliana Cruz, one of Southern California’s all-star Junior Coaches. Her Program Coordinator, Coach Jaron, can remember the day he first met the shy and soft-spoken third grader at Aldama Elementary.“I think the only thing she ever talked to me about was in the after school program about how nice I colored,” recalls Coach Jaron.
Juliana is now in the fifth grade and entering her second year as a Junior Coach. She is on the yard every day and takes pride in guiding students to different games and modeling the ways to play safe, play hard, and be respectful. Basketball is one of Juliana’s favorite games, and she can often be found challenging herself to shoot three pointers from behind the arch. She loves showing the boys at her school that girls enjoy and can excel at playing sports too, and is constantly encouraging other girls to get on the court and try their best.
Juliana attributes her transformation from a shy student to a confident leader on the playground to her involvement in Playworks’ Junior Coach program. As a Junior Coach, she found a passion for leadership and a newfound set of responsibility to her school and peers. When asked about the difference the Junior Coach program has made in her life, Juliana responded:
“The difference is that I enjoy having fun with people I don’t know. I meet new people every day. Also, that people that bully me don’t because they know that I’m a Junior Coach…I am different because I actually want to help people every single day. I don’t get hurt by people about their words because they know I’m a Junior Coach. My feelings changed about school. I want to come to go to school because I want to help people every day no matter what. I especially love to play because I have more energy when I’m a Junior Coach and that’s something I’m proud of."