Before I began my journey as a Playworks Coach at Neeskara Elementary School, I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed kids would love Playworks and would immediately befriend a new Playworks Coach, but I didn’t know the impact I’d have would be so great.
Since I began serving at Neeskara in January, I noticed a huge change in the way students (and teachers) pass me in the hallway. I am always greeted with an enthusiastic, “Hey Coach Natalie,” often accompanied by a high-five. I notice that the kids and grown-ups feel comfortable being themselves around me and are having fun. The impact is evident in the halls of the school, but no where do I feel like I’ve made an impact more, than with Deonta.
When we would line up after recess to transition inside, Deonta could be counted on to be the center of conflict. He was the one that was pushing and shoving, skipping in line, and encouraging other kids to act out. One day I told Deonta, “If you can walk inside without touching anyone else, tomorrow you can stand by me and help me lead the cheer.” A smile immediately appeared on his face and he was beaming with a sense of importance.
The next day as recess began, Deonta immediately came and found me shouting, “I’m going to work with you today!” I gave Deonta important instructions – he could play at recess, but then should find me when the recess bell rang so we could get the kids ready to go inside. When the bell rang I took my place near the building to begin the lineup and transition process. Deonta hustled to my side and didn’t hesitate to join in leading the cheer with me.
The next day as I was walking in the hallway, I saw Deonta with his teacher and his class. As I passed them, he ran up and gave me a high-five, turned to his teacher and said, “We’re working together,” like it was the coolest job in the world.
His teacher looked at me slightly confused. I responded without missing a beat “Oh yeah, Deonta helps me do the cheer at recess so that there are no problems in line.”
His teacher said, “You picked the right one” and gave me a wink. Since then, Deonta is always excited to see me. He is more willing to follow directions, and most of all, he’s found his purpose on the playground.