Picture yourself stepping into a room full of high-ranking sports, corporate and other industry executives from around the world.
How might you feel? Are you prepared to mingle with the crowd? Now imagine you step into that same room at only 14 years old.
How do you think you would handle that situation?
If you are anything like Aniyah, one of the founding members of the PeacePlayers Leadership Development Program in Brooklyn, your first words might be something like, “here we go, time to network!”
That was her reaction at PeacePlayers International’s board meeting last October at Nike’s New York Headquarters. Surrounded by leaders of various industries, Aniyah and her teammates took the reception by storm, bouncing between executives and organizational leadership, making sure to introduce themselves to anyone that would listen. Before long, many in the reception hall happily turned their attention to this boisterous young team. The girls spoke at length about their home in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and about the impact that PeacePlayers has had on their community.
Aniyah was still in New York, but being in downtown Manhattan was a world away from where she grew up.
“They weren’t just there, they had a sense of belonging,” said their coach Sally Nnamani, Director of PeacePlayers Brooklyn. That sense of belonging is something that Sally and her coaches strive to reinforce at practices throughout the year. No matter where you are from or how old you are, you should always feel that you belong in your space. And as much as Sally reinforces these points in practice, she admitted, “in times like these, we are learning as much from them as they can from us,” acknowledging that there are so many times as adults, we don’t feel entirely comfortable putting ourselves out there in these types of situations.
The confidence that Aniyah and her teammates demonstrated at the board reception did not come as a surprise to Sally. It was more a continuation of the infections and outgoing energy that the team has demonstrated every week on the basketball court. As Aniayah, who joined PeacePlayers in 2018, has opened herself up to more experiences through PeacePlayers, her coaches have started to see some changes in her behavior at practices.
While Aniyah has never been described as shy in her time at PeacePlayers, she began taking on new leadership roles amongst her teammates at practice. She is now vocal with her teammates about attending practices on a regular basis and, this past December, when she helped lead an event that brought together some of the younger players from her neighborhood, she embraced the opportunity to coach and mentor them.
Aniyah has only just begun to show how much she has to offer as a leader in her community. As someone who had, just a few years prior, nearly quit basketball entirely, she has found in PeacePlayers a place where she can not only have fun playing the game but also make a significant impact on the community around her. In Aniyah we see how strong, dynamic youth leaders can help create communal change.
She leads the way in helping her teammates, and those who look up to her, embrace their own confidence in order to impact their community.
In that spirit of impacting those around you, Aniyah, Sally, their teammates, and community members from around Brooklyn will gather together on Monday, January 20th at the Uncommon Charter High School to celebrate MLK’s legacy as one of five PeacePlayers celebrations happening across the country this weekend. Our PeacePlayers MLK weekend events in Brooklyn and nationwide are an opportunity to remember Dr. King’s life and legacy and recommit ourselves to serve one another and our communities.
Click here to learn more about our Brooklyn event and come see for yourself how PeacePlayers, with leaders like Aniyah, is impacting communities around the world.