MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Ann Nguyen joined Playworks Northern California in 2009.
For two years, her students at East San Jose’s Santee Elementary knew her as “Coach Ann.” While in that role, Nguyen served the kids in her community with the power of play, transforming the culture of the school.
After spending five years as a middle school counselor, Nguyen now works as the program director for the Southern California division overseeing partnerships at more than 36 schools as well as managing the Los Angeles Unified School District master service agreement.
The Southern California division came to the area in 2009 and provides Playworks staffing, consultative support and professional development which helps Playworks work directly with the schools, districts and youth organizations or assist in creating personalized plans for the programs.
“The need for safe and healthy play is a universal need,” Nguyen said. “It’s a dire need that’s not being met and not just for students in a certain demographic or socioeconomic status. We really believe that safe and healthy play is crucial to the development of all kids.”
Playworks currently brings a collaborative playtime to more than 19 different school districts across Southern California and 91 elementary schools. At each of these schools, children gain the benefits of a “healthy play environment where every child can join in,” according to the organization’s website.
But the proof is in the pudding.
According to its 2019 Annual Survey, 97% of school staff believed that Playworks Southern California helped create opportunities for the inclusion of diverse groups of students and 95% of staff agreed that Playworks improved their overall school climate.
Playworks is not alone in its mission to help children learn social and emotional skills while enjoying physical activities. It partners with organizations like the Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation, LA84 Foundation, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and LA Galaxy Foundation.
“It’s beneficial to align with partners that can learn, see and support the work that we get to do and come alongside with us and see the value of safe and healthy play,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen also said that games like basketball, soccer and foursquare are highly valued at almost every school, among other playground games.
The program’s success, Nguyen says, is based on whether “every child, regardless of grade, ethnicity, ability, gender, socioeconomic status or race” is deserving of access to inclusive, safe, welcoming and respectful time of play or recess during their day.
By Bria Overs