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In 1995, Playworks Founder Jill Vialet got an earful from a principal she was visiting in Oakland, California. Rather than recess being a happy, playful time for the kids, the principal lamented that it had become the most chaotic period of the school day, with kids getting hurt, getting into trouble and getting left out. In that moment Jill saw an opportunity to change recess, to make it a positive and productive time for all kids. In 1996, Jill founded Playworks. In 2011, Playworks began serving three schools in Arizona. Today our program has expanded to serve six school districts, impacting 15,500 children daily.

Principals tell us that nearly all discipline-related problems in school occur during lunch and recess. Instead of going back to class energized and ready to learn, the kids return to class upset and unable to focus.

We can change this. Recess should be fun and energetic and safe and inclusive for everyone. Isn't that what we want for all kids in elementary school today?

When recess becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive experience with them beyond the playground. On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs, everyone contributes to the game. Coaches encourage kids to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids learn the value of fair play, compassion and respect. On our playgrounds, kids become leaders. They run their own games and settle their disputes quickly (rock-paper-scissors is our problem solver) because getting along is more fun than fighting. On our playgrounds, kids play hard, cheer loud and high five with joy. And they carry that feeling of peace and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

In Arizona, Playworks serves 21 low-income Title 1 elementary schools, positively impacting 15,500 students every day through our direct service and training programs.