After a year of participating in the Playworks Junior Coach Leadership Program, 350 fourth- and fifth-graders from 22 Milwaukee Public Schools and Waukesha Public Schools gathered at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Friday, June 2, for Playworks Wisconsin's annual Junior Coach Leadership Conference. This year, it was hosted by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Students attending the conference completed a year’s worth of after-school leadership training while gaining experience in leading younger kids through Playworks’ Junior Coach Leadership Program. Milwaukee Bucks legend Vin Baker and Playworks CEO and Founder Jill Vialet addressed the students to stress their importance as future leaders.
Playworks’ programs, including the Junior Coach Leadership Program, work to improve the well-being of children through play, and by building social and emotional skills that are critical for success in school and life.
According to Playworks Wisconsin's 2015-2016 Annual Survey of partner school staff:
- 92% of teachers with Junior Coaches in their classroom reported an improvement in Junior Coaches' leadership skills;
- 86% of teachers with Junior Coaches in their classroom reported an improvement in Junior Coaches' teamwork abilities;
- 82% of teachers with Junior Coaches in their classroom reported an improvement in Junior Coaches' abilities to resolve conflicts.
“In working with community partners, one of the key factors the Bucks look for is measurable outcomes,” said Alicia Dupies, Bucks Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility. “Playworks' ability to work with each school to help improve social-emotional learning is really important–the data speaks for itself. We’ve spent a lot of time in MPS schools leveraging Playworks programming and we consistently see inclusion, the ability to use conflict resolution strategies, and leadership in their fourth- and fifth-graders who participate in the Junior Coach Leadership Program.”
During the leadership conference, students also showcased games they created themselves that proactively solve problems by using positive language. One of those students, Chivia, a student at Franklin Pierce Elementary School, received the Playworks Junior Coach of the Year Award for her efforts to proactively resolve conflicts using games and positive language.
“A unique part of the Playworks approach to empowering leadership in students is a purposeful selection of students who represent varying degrees of readiness,” said Deborah Lukovich, Playworks Wisconsin Executive Director. “We do not just invite students who are already rising to the top, but also invite students who are likely to fall through the cracks, and the transformation of these kids is remarkable.”
“We are thankful for the support of the Milwaukee Bucks and look forward to deepening our relationship with an organization that is so important to Milwaukee,” said Playworks board member Brad Zepecki.
Bucks mascot, Bango, along with members of the Bucks Entertainment Network, were also present at Friday’s conference to congratulate the Junior Coaches on graduating from this year’s leadership program.