Coach K Connects with Kids

A self-professed Southern gentleman from Tennessee, Kwan Buchanan exemplifies dedication to the Playworks’ mission as a third-year Playworks #AmeriCorps Coach.

“Coach K” is now serving at Playa Vista Elementary School after spending his first two years at a couple of schools in Watts in South Los Angeles. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the son of a single mom who worked long hours as a nurse. After-school programs kept him off the streets, and the mentors he found there were positive role models he’s chosen to emulate.

After high school, Kwan moved to California, played football at Pasadena City College, and worked at an after-school program for several years. He discovered Playworks through a friend. The job has turned out to be a perfect fit with his values, love of sports, and passion for kids.

“I get a kick out of connecting with those kids that no one else can get to,” Coach K says. “The things I experienced as a child, being in those same kids’ shoes, it helps me understand what they’re going through nowadays and things they might come across. And being that caring and consistent adult to those kids who really need it is really fulfilling.”

Coach K remembers a 4th-grade boy at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary where he served last year. The boy was aggressive and didn’t have a good reputation at the school, but Kwan wasn’t ready to give up on him.

“He was going through a lot at home and nobody really took the time to ask him about it. Once I talked to him every day, built rapport with him, and just broke down that barrier, halfway through the year, this kid changed,” Kwan says. “He ended up being one of my Junior Coaches, he played on my soccer team, he was a leader on the playground, he really tried his best to change his behavior. He showed me that the “Dennis the Menace” of the school can be the smartest with the most potential, but it just takes a person who can connect.”

That ability to relate to children is one of Coach K’s best qualities, according to Playa Vista Elementary’s principal, Rebecca Johnson.

“He’s incredibly dynamic. Kids really connect with him,” she says. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing, and it shows every day. He’s on it, organized, makes sure that the students are solving things in a positive way, and reminds them of how to do that. He’s very clear with his expectations on the yard, and that’s key.”

Junior Coaches at Playa Vista Elementary hang out with Coach K.

Coach K believes he’s grown tremendously during his three years at Playworks and hopes to move up within the organization because he values its mission. And he has some advice for those considering becoming a Playworks #AmeriCorps Coach.

“This job will teach you the ins and outs of everything you need to know about how to be a professional. I would never have learned the things I’ve learned these past three years without the help of Playworks because I’ve been in so many different situations where it requires professionalism. Connecting with parents and principals and staff members and janitors—everyone you need to interact with, there’s a certain tone, a certain language, a certain professionalism that you need to bring to the table, and Playworks has molded me into that.”

But that’s not all he loves about his job.

“At Playworks, we get very close. It’s like a family. The camaraderie is great, and we always help each other out.”

Curious how you can launch your career while making an impact on students’ lives? Learn about Playworks AmeriCorps Coach opportunities

We’re hiring paid full-time AmeriCorps members for the 2019–20 school year.

 

Apply to be a Coach

More Stories of Play


Everyone Gets in the Game ›

Our Playworks AmeriCorps coaches are dedicated to bringing out the best in every kid at each of the schools we serve in Southern California. Coaches help build a culture of play that enables kids to feel a real sense of belonging and have the opportunity to contribute on the playground, in the classroom, and into…

AmeriCorps Coach Inspires Youth Leaders ›

Our Playworks AmeriCorps coaches make a positive impact every day at each of the schools we serve in Southern California. Coaches transform schools, engage communities, and inspire youth leaders. During AmeriCorps Week we celebrate their commitment to service and getting things done on playgrounds all over Southern California. Here’s an inspiring story from AmeriCorps Coach…

From the Playground to USC ›

After graduating from college, McKenna Griffith was searching for an opportunity where she could make an impact on students’ lives. She was interested in youth development and wanted to hone her skills by earning a master’s in social work, but McKenna knew that she needed more experience to successfully transition into a graduate program. When…

The Secret to Playworks’ Success ›

Recess is the most overlooked time of the school day. And at many low-income elementary schools across the country, teachers and principals see that conflict often starts on the playground, and can find its way back into the classroom. With so much pressure on schools to demonstrate student academic performance, recess is often seen as…