From Student to Master: Casey’s journey to a PeacePlayers fellowship
June 13, 2023
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Casey Pearson. I’m from Detroit, Michigan. I’m currently 22 years old. In my free time I like to go to the gym, go shopping, and spend time with my friends and family - we love to watch Marvel movies, travel to new places, and just go to our local Target. A fun fact about me is that I want to travel to Barcelona with my two sisters. Ever since we saw Cheetah Girls 2, we wanted to recreate the famous scene where they are singing ‘Strut’ throughout Barcelona. When I do get a chance to visit, I want to see the different attractions like the Park Guell, and the Segrada Familia.
How did you first learn about PeacePlayers?
I first learned about Peaceplayers from my mom. She found a basketball leadership program and said that I should sign up. My mom learned about PeacePlayers from Jasmine [Cooper, Director of PeacePlayers Detroit]. They were close friends before I became involved. She contacted Coop to see if she knew of any summer opportunities that I could benefit from while I was on summer break from college. After hearing what PeacePlayers was and how it could help me network with different people in a field I wanted to pursue, I was eager to figure out what the program was about. From then on I fell in love with the program and what it has to offer.
Describe your journey through the PeacePlayers pipeline. What programs or experiences have you been a part of?
When I first joined PeacePlayers, I started in LDP. I eventually moved on to be a junior coach in Detroit for three years. I am now a Lead Coach at PeacePlayers Detroit. In this position I am responsible for executing quality programming to our Peace League participants.
My favorite part about being a Lead Coach is not only being able to work closely with the participants, but also being able to celebrate their achievements, and empower participants to achieve their goals. As a Detroit Fellow I get a chance to collaborate with Detroit staff about different curriculum activities for both Peace League and Leadership Development participants. As a Fellow, I have also gotten a chance to learn more about other PeacePlayers locations, meet new people, and even learn how I can use PeacePlayers’ core values in the workplace and my personal life. The fellowship also gives me a chance to collaborate with other fellows and bounce ideas off one another to learn how we can not only develop ourselves but PeacePlayers as well. Overall, both positions have allowed me to develop professionally and personally as a leader.
How has your experience with PeacePlayers molded you? Are there things that you’ve experienced or learned that you think have made an impact on who you are today or on how you see the world?
PeacePlayers has molded and continues to mold me into the leader that I am today. Before PeacePlayers, I was more timid and would follow individuals instead of stepping up to the task. PeacePlayers has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, take on more responsibility, and grow my confidence. Being able to create relationships with the youth of the community has given me a chance to become a mentor and inspire them to become future leaders.
How do you connect to the PeacePlayers core values in your personal or professional relationships, or in the way you conduct yourself in general?
In my personal and professional relationships, I strive to use the core values of PeacePlayers. For Inside Outside Transformation, I look to develop myself from the inside before going out into my community to make a difference. For me that looks like learning more about the different communities we work out of, and understanding some of their issues. From there, as an organization, we can try to see how we can help empower the youth to become leaders in their community.
For Seeing People as People, whenever I am introduced to anyone new, I keep an open mind and try to bring positive energy so that they can see that I respect them and their opinions.
Lastly, for Culture of Collaboration, I strive to work together with others and put away our differences to achieve our goals. The PeacePlayer core values have shaped my mindsets and behaviors in a way that creates a positive influence in my life or in a task that is presented to me.
How do you perceive the importance of your role as a mentor and coach?
When coaching in youth sports, athletes look up to their coaches. As a coach, it's important to understand that we have an influence on the behaviors and attitudes of the youth. Using that platform to mentor students to develop themselves into their best possible self is essential to being a successful and influential coach.
What motivated you to return to the program as a Fellow?
The work environment and support of both PeacePlayers internationally and in Detroit influenced me to return as a fellow. The work environment is team-based, meaning you are in a safe, dependable environment where you are able to ask for help and support from others, and it will be given. With this supportive environment, work becomes more engaging and collaborative with other members of the organization. This environment is unique because everyone in the organization tries to develop each other by supporting and empowering one another. One of my personal core values is community. The work that PeacePlayers does of trying to bridge communities, and develop the next leaders of the world by using basketball is a type of community outreach that aligns with both my personal values and love for basketball. The work this organization does is important in our communities and it has been an honor being a part of it.
How did you hear about the fellowship?
When I told the Detroit office how I wanted to make a bigger impact with PeacePlayers and my community, they helped me try to figure out a way to do so. With the help and support of the PeacePlayers Detroit staff, I was able to connect with staff from PeacePlayers International and collaborate on what a fellowship would look like in the city of Detroit. Some responsibilities that I have been able to do with this fellowship is to co-create curriculum activities for the Leadership Development Program, have a part in the recruiting process for both LDP and Peace League, and even connect with LDP alumni to catch up and see how they are doing.
What do you hope to take away from your experience as a fellow? What have you gained from your involvement in the leadership pipeline, or your journey from Peace League to LDP, and now fellow?
I hope to gain relationships and different opportunities to connect with more PeacePlayers sites in the organization. I want to be able to take knowledge and experiences learned from my journey and share them with other fellows in the organization. I have come to understand the influence a community leader can have. To me, a community leader is a person that does not try to fix all of the community problems but collaborates with community members to think of ways to strengthen, and better the people and community as a whole. Actually caring about the wellbeing of the kids and their community empowers youth to know that we are here for them and their success.
What do you hope to impart upon the young people you work with?
I hope that I can impact the lives of young people by showing them that they have a whole life ahead of them and that if they want something they have to go out and stick their minds to something they are able to accomplish.
What advice would you give your younger, PeacePlayer participant self?
I would tell myself to not be afraid to try new things, to take risks, and to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being able to attend college and interact with people from different backgrounds has given me a chance to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about myself. For instance, living on campus in the dorms was a way for me to meet and network with people from all around the country and put myself out there. College was an experience I will not take for granted because it helped me develop into the person that I am today.
In PeacePlayers U.S., there is more of a focus on equity than in some of the other PeacePlayers sites. Do you think there is something you can bring to the Detroit context in that regard?
Working with PeacePlayers Detroit, sharing equal opportunities to all participants is a big focus for us. We want participants to experience things they have never experienced and learn the importance of working with individuals from different backgrounds. Some experiences we have provided were taking the youth to sit courtside at a Pistons game, interact with youth on the other side of the city, and even participate in a debate seminar. These opportunities were given to the kids as a chance to socialize and network with youth from different communities and get exposed to the different things that their city has to offer.
What do you have to offer as a fellow? What is it about you as a person, or your talents that you’ll be able to bring to the fellowship?
Education has been a huge thing in my life. As a recent college graduate, and a current graduate student, I want to bring my positive experiences to encourage getting a higher education. I got my bachelors degree in communications at Michigan State University. I am currently getting my masters’ degree in sports administration at Wayne State University. With my continuous learning, I have gotten a chance to take classes on concepts of leadership and principles of coaching. Both classes have given me information on how to be an influential coach. Each day I can use my educational background to provide quality programming to the participants of PeacePlayers. Higher education has prepared me with both intellectual and social skills as I pursue my dream career. It has allowed me to develop my communication skills, professional development skills, and work ethic. As a person I can bring my determination and positive attitudes to try different things to this fellowship and organization.
Can you reflect on what the significance is for you as a person of color joining a PeacePlayers fellowship?
As a person of color, joining the PeacePlayers fellowship was huge. Allowing other participants who are from the same background as me to see me do big things in the organization gives them a sense of belonging when it comes to how they look at the program and its influence on their community.