'Playing' It Forward
Nate Haddad '13 is an award-winning volunteer for Playworks, AmeriCorps
Editor’s Note: Nate Haddad ’13 is many things—a writer, musician, photographer, but he’s proudest of his work as a community volunteer. Upon earning a bachelor's degree in English from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Haddad joined AmeriCorps in Boston for two terms of service, in which he also served as a certified Reebok Build Our Kids' Success (BOKS) trainer at the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School. This past year, Haddad was a Playworks program coordinator at Kenny, providing safe and inclusive play to low-income students.
Student writer Christina Tiberio ’16 caught up with Haddad, who recently was named Playworks’ “Rookie Coach of the Year," to ask him a few questions:
Congratulations on your award. Tell us about it.
“Rookie Coach of the Year” is a national award given to a first-year coach who exemplifies Playworks’ four core values: respect, inclusion, healthy play, and healthy community. I was nominated for my year of service at Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester [near Boston].
This past year, the school experienced several administrative changes, so, as an AmeriCorps member, I felt it was my responsibility to step up to the plate. Every day, I made sure all the kids got on and off the bus, safely and in a timely fashion. And when a new principal was appointed in November, I organized [for her] a student incident report and discipline system because, oftentimes, there were no consequences for student actions. I regularly communicated student progress to their families and reinforced positive behavior.
I also organized the girls’ fourth- and fifth-grade basketball team. At one of the games, I famously donned a Wildcat mascot costume, and performed a halftime routine.
What’s the connection between Playworks and AmeriCorps?
I’m an AmeriCorps member who’s doing a term of service at Playworks Massachusetts in Boston. Playworks is a national nonprofit, dedicated to getting students active and healthy through play. AmeriCorps is a national service program that teams up with nonprofits, such as Playworks, to provide volunteers for a year.
I’m one of 11 Playworks / AmeriCorps members involved in service projects throughout the area. I have helped remediate local parks and wildlife preserves, facilitate events at health centers, and manage volunteers at fundraising events.
Why is community service important?
Community service projects have provided me with some of the most important experiences of my life. There is nothing more gratifying than giving back to your community. With all the talk of social injustice in America, there seems to be little being done to remediate it. Community service is one of the most rewarding ways to speak out against injustice, by accomplishing something that is both tangible and measurable.
What have your students taught you?
If there's one thing I’ve taken away from this experience, it’s patience--knowing that change or progress is not instantaneous. Patience is something students and adults often fall short of, sometimes giving up, with little or no pressure from others to push past obstacles. This year, I've seen children push the envelope in terms of hard and soft skills and what I’ve expected from them.
How did Syracuse University prepare you for what you’re doing today?
Some of the most important skills I got from Syracuse came from networking seminars that I attended during my junior and senior years. These seminars, coupled with guidance from Career Services and my involvement with The Dulye Leadership Experience [a career-development "boot camp," led by Linda M. Dulye '77], helped me plan ahead and make the most of my degree.
I also made great connections with faculty and staff, creating lasting relationships with professors and colleagues. From these friendships came great advice, professional recommendations, and unforgettable experiences.
Over the next year, I plan to travel and share my experiences with others, encouraging those able to volunteer to “get in the game”—if not with AmeriCorps, then with someone else. I also want to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit management.