Playworks Utah is proud to honor Ashley Engeler as our Coach of the Month. Her amazing work at Lincoln Elementary in the Davis district Has helped bolster positive language, create amazing leagues, and empower Junior coaches to be role models. We recently interviewed Ashley about her experience working for Playworks. Here’s her story.
I discovered a love for working with youth by accident in the winter of 2007. I had just moved to Salt Lake City, Utah from Santa Cruz, California and, on a whim, applied for a ski-school reception position at a local resort. To my surprise, I ended up being offered a job as a children’s snowboarding instructor. I took it, and after the end of the first season, I was hooked. Watching the determined faces of my students light up with pride and accomplishment as they learned their capabilities on the mountain introduced me to a sense of satisfaction I hadn’t felt before.
The following year I accepted a summer position working with ten to twelve year olds with The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake. I ended up staying on board, in some capacity, for the next five years as I navigated my way through college and other odd-jobs, including stints as a paraeducator and special-needs tutor in public and private education. While the varied experiences in these jobs taught me many things, the positions were always part-time and the autonomy I had was always limited. After graduating college, I grew restless. I wanted a position I could dedicate more of my attention to, somewhere I could learn and grow as a professional.
Enter Playworks. I had a friend (Jaime Pimsler) who had been working with Playworks Utah since the program launched in the Salt Lake Area. She encouraged me to apply, and after visiting the website, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made. Playworks has provided me with everything I had yearned for. I have been challenged, trusted, humbled and deeply satisfied with the experience of being a first-year Playworks coach. The program has given me an opportunity to be an active, key member in my school’s community. Being able to come to work every day knowing that the components we run benefit our kids on both a large and small scale has been entirely rewarding, to say the least.
For me, the highlights of Lincoln’s program (and those that I have focused much of my time and energy on) are those that foster impact on a smaller scale: the Junior Coach program and Leagues. The Junior Coach program gives students a chance to take ownership of their community and practice leadership among fellow students. Leagues give participants a chance to learn new skills and practice respect for the game and each other, both of which they are encouraged to, and do, bring to recess. I have watched students in both programs gain confidence and solidarity with their peers as they head to the playground as role models. Larger-scale impact on and off the playground couldn’t be done without the work of these students, and Playworks truly gives them an outlet to realize their potential.
I love being an AmeriCorps member through Playworks because I believe that building lasting, trusting relationships is just as important to children as it is to adults. I believe that when you treat young people with the respect they deserve as humans, they will recognize, remember and return that respect. I believe that allowing kids to grow into themselves knowing self-worth and compassion for others is vital for a truly healthy community. Most of all, though, I believe that the roles kids serve in our lives are just as important as the roles we serve in theirs.