I’m the program director for Play More B’more, where we currently have 18 teenagers, some post-high school, learning how to plan and build real playgrounds. This includes being on a construction team, a recruitment team, a safety team, a play team. This way each teenager was able to lead a group of volunteers on how to build a playground. Kids would have an opportunity to build and imagine and it be safe. Our students got to engage in play therapy. We build the park in 6 hours, in one day. Rain, sleet, snow, we are out there.
This is a great way to involve opportunity youth in their community. We are working with kids from neighborhoods that need a lot of support. This of course comes with challenges. We hire youth that are homeless, that have been incarcerated, who have records. Some of our students are, for lack of better words, coming straight of the street. We have been able to get our students in a shelter the next day after enrolling. We do a lot of coaching, we work tirelessly to support them in day to day life. It’s trying to give opportunity to those who could be at a disadvantage.
All of our students come from Baltimore City. We want to make sure they’re helping to build their own community. There is a sense of gratification because they are able to give in such a tangible way. They can actually bring their children to a park they know they had hands in building. They can look back and say I’ve built all these necessary skills, but really, I’ve left knowing someone cared. I think that’s the silver lining.