Playworks Southern 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.
Evelyn Barraza is going into her eighth year of being a Playworker. Born and raised in Southeast Los Angeles, Evelyn was introduced to baseball at a young age thanks to her older brother. Though she experienced backlash from the neighborhood boys for being a girl who played baseball, her brother always stood by her side and her right to play. Now, as a mother of two young girls, it is her goal to empower kids to believe they are capable of being whatever it is that they want to be.
Evelyn began at Playworks as an AmeriCorps Coach where she had the opportunity to coach developmental sports leagues. She was taken aback after learning the low statistical rates of girls playing sports as they become older. On the playground at the beginning of her tenure with Playworks, Evelyn noticed that girls were often not encouraged to join in sports and play. In coaching leagues, she aspired to instill in kids that everyone has the equal right to play and have fun no matter their skill level or gender. She shared with students the importance of being inclusive, and encouraged young girls and boys to invite everyone to join. She was a driving force behind creating an environment for all children to make new friends, gain confidence, and excel in their chosen sport. Now, as a Program Manager, Evelyn hopes to continue to open doors for young women, create more opportunities for kids to play, and build a community of adults and peers that empower and uplift children through play.
Bertina is in her 10th year as a Playworker. Growing up in the Southeast area of San Diego, Bertina said there was a shortage of female role models, mentors, and coaches on her playground and in her co-ed sports teams. When she discovered Playworks, she jumped at the opportunity to apply as an AmeriCorps Coach in Southern California to serve kids in under-resourced communities like her hometown and empower kids through play.
Through her years with Playworks, she has seen the power of play positively impact communities, especially those where opportunities are limited. One of the fondest memories of Bertina’s career happened when she found out she would be able to recruit kids to join the girls 3rd, 4th and 5th grade basketball teams as a part of a sports league. She knew the impact she would have on these young girls would last a lifetime. A mother of one of the girls told Bertina that without the opportunity to play in this sports league, her daughter may never have had an opportunity to play basketball. Being on the team helped the girl be more active, make friends, and learn how to play with others.
Being able to contribute to the transformation of teams and culture has been monumental to Bertina’s career and now as Regional Partnership Director, CA, Bertina hopes that she will enhance culture so every Playworker feels a sense of belonging, safety and inclusiveness. She hopes that by enabling the team to show up authentically, they’ll be role modeling for students and will create the conditions and inspiration for students to show up as their most authentic selves and feel welcomed and included by their community.
Jessica, born and raised in Los Angeles, found Playworks eight years ago after searching to deepen her creative career in education. Jessica attributes her Latina background and strong community upbringing for emphasizing her values in the importance of uplifting women. Her values resonated with those of Playworks; prioritizing equity and creating a supportive team environment. Being at Playworks has allowed Jessica the space to further enrich her life through communal bonds and working toward a common goal to positively impact others.
One of Jessica’s goals is to contribute to a world where all genders are elevated in the sports world. While serving as a female Coach at her first partner school, she noticed the lack of young girls participating in playground sports. Right away, Jessica joined games dominated by boys and invited young girls and female staff to join and showcase their skills. The boys saw that girls had skills on the court. Jessica inspired a cultural shift at the school where more girls felt elevated and believed in their capabilities to join in sports.
As a female leader of color, Jessica, Regional Partnership Manager, CA, hopes that by breaking down barriers and opening hearts and minds, young girls feel more empowered to show up on the playground and see their place on the court too. By opening the hearts and minds of kids and adults, she has paved the way for larger conversations on gender inclusive play. Jessica hopes that as part of her legacy, she will be known as a female leader who made play more inclusive for all.
A heartfelt thank you to DPR Construction for participating in a Playworks Play Day at 95th Street Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District. The Covid-19 pandemic limited volunteer opportunities.…