The Playworks Wisconsin Advisory Board is a group of change-makers who believe in the power of play and are active ambassadors for Playworks. These playful professionals contribute their personal time to share the mission of Playworks: to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.
Jami serves as Shift Manager at General Mills in Milwaukee, WI. Jami received both her BA and MBA from the University of Iowa. After finishing school, Jami’s career began with General Mills in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From there, she moved to two other General Mills plant locations before settling at the Milwaukee location in May of 2000. In addition to her expected duties at General Mills, Jami leads the Community Action Council program. This program is an important part of General Mills’ commitment to the communities where it has business operations. The council’s goal is to help the company give back, both financially and through volunteer efforts, to their local manufacturing communities. Jami enjoys volunteering her time to various local area activities to help in the company’s mission to give back to the community. She is a long-time partner of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a member of the Non-Profit Center’s business volunteer council, and also serves on the Advisory Board for City Year.
“I believe children are our future and that it is up to us to prepare them to lead the way.” When speaking about her passion for Playworks, Jami adds, “Playworks is a wonderful organization to help in that mission. They are doing it by teaching the kids not only how to play, but how to connect with others, and to grow physically, emotionally and socially. These are all important skills to lead each and every day throughout our lives. I am glad to be associated with an organization of this caliber!”
Payroll Control Systems
Tom Casanova brings a diverse professional background to the Playworks team. After graduating UW-Whitewater with his degree in Management Computer Systems, Tom worked as a computer programmer at Time Insurance Company. He then ventured into a business development career with Capital Data that eventually led him to forming his own business, Nova Partners, where he helped independent IT consultants find web-based development projects.
His daughter’s third grade teacher asked Tom to help tutor in her class and this motivated him to earn his Masters in Curriculum & Instruction at Concordia University Wisconsin. He then spent the next eight years teaching elementary school in the New Berlin and Kettle Moraine districts. Tom is currently working in a business development role at Payroll Control Systems.
“As a former educator, the Playworks mission is significant to me. I witnessed firsthand the effects of playground activities spilling over into the classroom. Many of these activities affected social-emotional development and learning within the classroom setting. Playworks provides tremendous value to students and educators and I am excited to be part of the Advisory Board!”
Vice President of Community Health
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Passionate about the supporting the development of healthy kids, families, and communities, Bridget Clementi dedicates her professional and personal time and efforts to leading child safety, injury prevention, health education and community health initiatives. As Vice President of Community Health for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Bridget is motivated by the organization’s vision of Wisconsin’s kids being the healthiest in the nation! With nearly 20 years of experience in improving child health, she has successfully led innovative prevention programs and initiatives that gain statewide recognition and gain positive health outcomes for families across the state. As an established professional in the greater Milwaukee community, Bridget serves on advisory boards and committees throughout both local community and Wisconsin, including Safe & Sound, Inc., Milwaukee’s Community Development Association, Milwaukee Succeeds and others. The relationships and partnerships she has establish and cultivates continue to improve the health and safety of children throughout Wisconsin. Bridget has a bachelor’s degree in communications from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and masters of business administration from the University of Phoenix.
Associate Director of Major and Planned Giving
Dedicated to education at every level, Chuck Demler serves as Associate Director of Major and Planned Giving at Lawrence University. He joined Lawrence in 2016 and facilitates significant philanthropic support for the university from individual donors. Prior to this role, Chuck worked at the Center for Community Vitality in the University of Minnesota Extension, the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education, and Macalester College. He was also an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer based at Lawrence. Chuck received a Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University with a major in Government and a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Minnesota.
“I am excited to help Playworks make a positive impact on children, schools and our community. The research proven Playworks programs helps students become more empathetic, resilient, and healthy. These are traits we need to build in all students. They help students at every level of their education from elementary school to college, but these are also traits we need in all community members! I am excited to serve as an advocate for such a worthy organization.”
Senior Advisor to the Mayor on Workforce and Education
Myra Edwards is a Senior Advisor to Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee on workforce and education. Working with a number of thought leaders in metro Milwaukee has expanded her reach in serving jointly with Mayor Barrett on the Executive Committee of the Milwaukee Succeeds, the city’s-cradle to-career education initiative and with DataShare an intergovernmental data research consortium connecting children and their families. She was a collaborator in creating the city’s first youth intermediary and their genesis project, Beyond the Bell. She oversees the Mayor’s summer youth employment initiative, known as EARN & LEARN, which has put more than 27,000 Milwaukee teens in jobs since 2005. In 2011, the Mayor tasked her with creating the Mayor’s EARN & LEARN Fund which has made a summer job a reality through more than $5.4 million in contributions over its five previous summer-cycles.
Her history of serving the interests of children and youth began through her previous work with the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) school district. There, she served the board of school directors and executive administration in several posts in Transportation, Governmental Relations and Community Development. A native of Milwaukee and MPS graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a M.A. in Organizational Management, she is guided by a personal philosophy that seeks inspiration from the best in each individual, believing that through that brand of collective contribution, the community can and will be made whole.
“I was already aware of the good work of Playworks in MPS schools, but as I learned more about the research and the significant impact Playworks’ programming has on children’s developing social and emotional well-being, my excitement grew. The aggressive scaling plan, the executive director’s energy, and the opportunity to help Playworks bring the spirit of play to adults through their corporate recess product moved me to accept being asked to be part of the Playworks board.”
Billie Jean Smith
Seasoned Intellectual Property Attorney and Equity Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Billie Jean Smith is a seasoned intellectual property attorney and equity partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP where she aids clients in the preparation and implementation of strategies to achieve their desired business goals. She has been named to “IP Stars – Top 250 Women in IP” by Managing Intellectual Property, awarded the Marquette University Opus College of Engineering Service Award, and received the IAM Patent 1000 award for the World’s Leading Patent Practitioners. Ms. Smith devotes her time and talents to many community organizations and charitable causes.
“When I saw the mission in action and learned when Playworks comes to a school bullying goes down, feelings of safety go up, physical activity goes up, student engagement throughout the day goes up, and teachers get measurable teaching time back, I knew I wanted to be part of this exciting time of expansion and scaling of the reach of Playworks. I am excited about my role to build awareness and attract the resources needed for us to achieve our AIM here in Wisconsin.”
VP Lending Operations
Margaret Haagensen joined WaterStone Bank in 2006, bringing over 25 years of experience in mortgage banking. In her first year at WaterStone, she created underwriting guidelines and processes, bringing structure to the bank’s mortgage division. Her responsibilities grew to managing processes for all of the bank’s lending groups, consumer and mortgage underwriting, correspondent lending, and overseeing the lending systems administration. She is active in charitable and professional organizations, serving on several boards.
“Now, more than ever, I believe in the importance of supporting the causes that contribute to the success of our community and the well-being of our people. Academic studies have proven Playworks’ success at improving children’s positive behavior on and off the playground through promoting physical activity and emotional safety at school. Healthy, well balanced, educated kids are much more likely to grow up to be contributing members of our community. An investment in Playworks is an investment in our future.”
Special Projects Manager
City Year Milwaukee
Jordan Peterson is originally from Iowa where he attended the University of Northern Iowa and received his BA in Foreign Language Acquisition. Previously, Jordan has worked as a Legislative Assistant and Special Education Teacher.
Currently, Jordan is employed at City Year Milwaukee as their Special Project Manager. Jordan is a member of Milwaukee Public Schools District Immigration Advisory Group, the Political Engagement Chair for Service Year Alliance Milwaukee, and a member and facilitator of New Politics Leadership Academy.
“I am eager to join Playworks’ board because physical activity and play is crucial to child development. Playworks offers structured support to schools and truly enhances the overall school culture.”
General Manager, Fitness & Membership
Jewish Community Center
Ryan has been involved in Fitness and Recreation for over 20 years. He Has worked in the private and public sector running fitness centers and has been a recreation programmer. Most of his career has been in the not for profit sector working in one of Canada’s largest municipalities, where he held several roles from facility maintenance to managing fitness centers and ice rinks.
Additionally, Ryan comes with a unique background in his studies. He has a degree in recreation and leisure from York University and a medical degree from All Saints University. He continues to be active with medical research where he continues to use his medical knowledge to help improve the qualities of life around him.
Ryan has always been happiest when helping and serving the community he lives in, whether it is through fitness and wellness or through community programs.
“I am excited to join Playworks so I can use my recreation experience and education along to help better the lives of children in the surrounding community.”
Theresa Russell is currently the principal of A.E. Burdick School in Milwaukee. She has been an enthusiastic educator in the Milwaukee Public Schools since 1998, both in the classroom and in administrative roles. Before becoming principal, Theresa was a school support teacher where she provided support and professional development to teachers in Educator Effectiveness, Common Core State Standards, Response to Intervention practices, data analysis practices, and best teaching practices. Previous to that, Theresa was a classroom teacher. She taught in middle school classrooms developed engaging lesson plans, practiced effective classroom management strategies, and analyzed data to drive instruction.
As principal, Theresa believes in fostering high student achievement in a nurturing environment. Theresa is dedicated to the well-being of all students and has been instrumental in accruing and developing innovative programs for Burdick School. She strongly believes in the Playworks mission and vision and has seen how this program positively impacts a school on many levels.
“I can honestly say that Playworks has exceeded my expectations to create a positive and nurturing culture and climate. In less than one year, Playworks created a safe, structured, and fun recess for kids, and increased positive staff engagement with the students. The program has taught the students how to connect with one another to play and to solve conflicts in a positive way. Bullying incidents are almost non-existent and injuries on the playground have significantly decreased. Most importantly, students are having fun while learning the social-emotional skills that are necessary to navigate life. I am so excited that our school will be able to partner with Playworks again next year!”
Vice President of Commercial Lending
Lynn Sigfred is a Vice President of commercial lending at Park Bank. She is responsible for business development and commercial portfolio management, working with small to mid-sized companies and non-profit organizations. She received her undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in Secondary Education and her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.
She is currently a Director and Treasurer of the Airport Gateway Business Association and an Ambassador for the Waukesha County Business Alliance. Lynn also spent eight years as an Allocation Panel Member for the United Way in Waukesha County, focused on their “Helping Kids Succeed” initiative.
“Being an education major and having supported children’s initiatives for many years, I am delighted to be a member of the Playworks board. It is wonderful to see how Playworks promotes leadership, inclusivity, conflict resolution, and fun. I look forward to seeing the impact it has on society as a whole as it instills such positive qualities in our young people. I feel so fortunate to be able to be a part of Playworks.”
Workforce Planning Analyst
Aurora Health Care
Brad Yocum obtained his Bachelors and Masters in Business Administration from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. He joined Aurora Health Care in 2010 after completing his Bachelors. He worked in two different temporary positions his first year before joining the Human Resource team at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. He later moved into a Recruiter role and recruited for three different hospitals and Home Care services for the Greater Milwaukee Area handling entry to professional level positions. He is currently working as a Workforce Planning Analyst with Talent Acquisition to improve the hiring process, work on attraction, and move the organization to be proactive versus reactive with hiring.
“I’m not originally from Wisconsin and I have been looking at a way to give back to this community that I have grown to love. I first learned about Playworks through their kickball tournament and at that time, I had no idea the environment at school and during recess can be inactive, stressful, and unwelcoming which causes a negative impact to the children’s engagement in school. After learning more about Playworks and doing further research, I felt that Playworks has demonstrated success and importance for children to have a safe and active environment. Research has proven that active kids learn better and decrease negative behaviors. I’m proud to join the board and to start working with young professionals in the community to get them engaged and play an active role in their communities which will help lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.”