This year, three new WITS Coaches joined our team: Daniel Crachiolo, Dominika Jargilo, and Naika Pierre. Their personal drive toward the WITS Mission exudes with every interaction they make in their school communities. Their open and thoughtful approach to this work matches their expertise and it is clear they are making an everlasting positive culture shift in their schools.
Coach Daniel quickly gained trust in his schools by reaching the students in the classroom, giving them the power of WITS FIT BITS, short fitness breaks during academic time that helps them refocus and release any unwanted jitters. He prioritized WITS FIT BITS, as he knew these breaks would help him to gain a stronger connection with the students and benefit his impact on the recess yard. Daniel often collaborates with his WITS Chef and adds a WITS FIT BIT into a cooking or nutrition lesson. This really helps the students connect the dots between food as fuel for fitness!
Daniel is the calm, quiet force of nature on our team. He has a comforting tone and welcoming presence which supports his work in the schools. He harnessed his quiet nature and made a quick impact as a rookie in his schools through the power of collaboration and openly sharing his story with his communities. “I was a child that had a lot of ailments and was overweight most of my childhood and was not really able to play with the other kids due to my lack of energy and coordination. Since I was a young adult, I learned many things about diet and exercise that helped me overcome the aforementioned things. I am currently studying for a precision nutrition certification. The WITS goal of increasing daily physical activity and fighting childhood obesity-related diseases was something that really spoke to me because I can be the person to these kids that I did not have myself as a resource growing up.”
Daniel’s calm engaging style has increased adult participation in his schools to a place it has never reached before. The adults join and help lead fitness activities and are gaining respect and inspiration from the students. This is such a critical component to a successful and sustainable healthy and active school culture.
Coach Dominika is another quiet force but most definitely the mightiest WITS Coach in Brooklyn. As a rookie coach, she was challenged with creating a solution for a school that had a major challenge they could not solve on their own. PS 56 in Brooklyn’s recess yard is under construction and won’t be available for use for over two years. Principal Grande was desperate for a creative solution that would give his students the opportunity for an active and positive recess experience but in an open street. With her meticulous and driven approach, Dominika presented safe solutions, worked through each challenge, and communicated her progress with Principal Grande in the process. For example, Dominika knew that for kindergartners to have a more successful recess experience, they necessitated smaller groups. Dominika presented a schedule change to Principal Grande and they worked together to accommodate smaller groups and a safer outcome for the kindergarteners. It is now working seamlessly and the school staff, students, and Coach Dominika are developing creative fitness activities that are woven into their everyday.
Coach Dominika has become a piece of the fabric of PS 56 Brooklyn. She recently devoted her own time to PS 56’s school community over the weekend, participating in their reading campground. “It was nice to see some of the students’ parents and to see the students outside of regular school programming. The parents of three boys in the school came up to me and said ‘Are you Coach Dominika? We hear so much about you at home. The boys love to go outside with you and play games. They talk about monkeys and bananas all the time.’ It was a great week!” Coach Dominika
Even as a rookie, Coach Naika has completely transformed a school that is brand new to the Wellness in the Schools program. Her superpower is in the way she lights up a room with just how excited she is just to be there. Naika’s passion and belief in this work gives every school staff member, including the principal, a sense of comfort that Naika will find and execute a successful solution to any challenges they bring her way. Her style of teaching not only connects with every student but every single person working in the school. She understands that each person plays an important role in the school’s culture. Because of this, Naika assessed that her priorities for success were to set a consistent expectation for the students and focus on teaming up with her school aides and teachers to equip them with the same passion and knowledge, so all can work as a power team.
It is common for school aides to supervise the recess yard, escort a student to the nurse’s office, or deliver necessary discipline as needed. It is uncommon for students to expect a fitness activity from a school aide. This is an area that the Coach for Kids program drives to tackle and Coach Naika worked her way in and did exactly that. Coach Naika built the trust quickly and scheduled a WITS Play Professional Development session for the school aides. In the session, she opened their hearts and minds, getting to know them, and learning their history with the school. She taught them the WHY of our work, the HOW, and gave them the tools, practice, and resources to lead, facilitate, engage, and inspire the students. The professional development was full of fun, laughter, vulnerability, and inspiration. Every topic and lesson was taught through play, which really gives aides a new perspective of physical activity and social-emotional learning. More importantly, they now have the power to teach it themselves! This workshop was the turning point of Coach Naika’s success story at PS 70 Bronx.
Here is a quote from PS 70’s Principal Roxanne Ledda: “That [professional development] Naika did for our school aides was the most impactful workshop they have ever received. The aides were heard saying that it was the first time they truly felt seen. This will change everything, thank you so much!”
Naika’s presence is felt around the building; she has helped secure the WITS culture amongst her community of change-makers.
Our rookie talent and passion, combined with the veteran experience has made for a very successful Coach for Kids program during this school year where we continue to face unprecedented challenges yet continue to deliver fitness breaks and activities that our school communities are embracing more than ever. Together, we are in it to win it.