This blog post is by Max Mancher, PeacePlayers’ Development and Communications Manager
PeacePlayers recently took another step in building our team across the United States by hiring LaToya Fisher as Director of PeacePlayers Baltimore. LaToya enters her role with a wealth of experience as she previously served as an international fellow with our PeacePlayers Middle East program.
I got a chance to sit down with LaToya and hear about her journey from a star basketball player at Shepherd University to PeacePlayers fellow and now director in Baltimore, ahead of their PeacePlayers’ Baltimore Day of Unity this Saturday, February 29th.
LaToya, tell me a little about yourself.
L: I grew up in Maryland after moving to Montgomery county when I was five years old. I graduated from Seneca Valley High School before going on to Shepherd Valley University. While I was there I earned a bachelors in sport and event management.
What was your college playing experience like?
L: I loved my college playing days. Playing at Shepherd, which is located in West Virginia, I felt far enough from home, but also close enough that my parents could come see me play. I finished in the top 20 in scoring and top 10 in rebounds in school history. As a junior I finished as a Division II Academic All-American. What I really appreciate about my playing career were all the friendships I made on the team. Those friendships helped my decision to stay for an extra year with the team to be a student assistant coach during my 5th year after my eligibility ran out.
What did you do after college?
L: After college I took the first job I could get. I started as a Customer Service rep for a promotional products company. While I was happy to have that opportunity, I always knew I wanted to be working with kids. I had thought about looking for camp director positions or running summer clinics. All I knew was, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
Eventually I decided to apply and go back to school for Sports Industry Management at Georgetown University. While looking through their resources, I found a link to the PeacePlayers website. I saw a video of two children from the Middle East speaking about how they were supposed to hate each other, but because of the PeacePlayers program, they had become best friends. I started to understand that I wanted to do something along the lines of using sports to help the greater good.
At the time I knew I had the right basketball experience to work at PeacePlayers, but I had never worked overseas. So next semester I applied to teach English in South Korea. I got accepted to a program called EPIK (English Program in Korea). I taught in Cheongju from 2011 to 2012.
Teaching in South Korea was an amazing experience. When the program finished I went back to Georgetown. That semester I took a corporate responsibility course taught by former PeacePlayers employee Taylor Brown. We started talking about my experience and he told me about the international fellowship opportunities through PeacePlayers.
What stands out to you from your time as a fellow?
L: What stands out to me was really the relationship building that I was able to do with the participants. So much of it happened during car rides to games and practices where we were able to have very real conversations. I learned about their traditions and families. They asked me questions about living in the United States and I was able to be very candid with them.
What surprised you most about your time in the Middle East?
L: Just how calm everything was. Everyone went about their lives and their business. When you’re over there, it doesn’t necessarily feel like you are living in constant conflict. People are coexisting. There are definitely times where you can feel the tension but it’s not what I thought it would be.
What are some things you’re excited about as you come back to PeacePlayers?
L: One of the first things I’ve realized is how much PeacePlayers has grown since I stepped away and came back. The evolution of the organization and seeing it come to establish year-round programs in the U.S. has been amazing. Of course, the organization wants to make a global impact but it’s clear that there’s a need for the programming locally in US cities. That we are finally in this space is very exciting.
As for the program in Baltimore, I’m just excited to see our youth embrace the program and become leaders in the community. I know how impactful the kids were in the Middle East. I watched them come into their own, take the program and make it theirs. I heard them speak about how PeacePlayers changed their perceptions and helped friendships develop. I can’t wait to see the same here in Baltimore.
What I’m most excited about is taking some of our youth, many of whom have not ever been out of their home city of Baltimore, over to the Middle East for PeacePlayers’ Friendship games in August. It will be amazing to bring them together with youth leaders from around the world. The stories, pictures, and friendships that they are going to come back with will be indescribable. I love how PeacePlayers is providing opportunities for them to experience these unique moments to all grow as leaders for peace.