Maria Gerena serves as Community Programs Manager at Asphalt Green. She oversees a variety of initiatives including our free and low-cost youth soccer programs throughout the city and our programs serving the residents of the neighboring Stanley Isaacs and John Haynes Holmes public housing complexes.
She celebrated her seven-year anniversary with the organization on January 11, 2023.
“I always knew about Asphalt Green and the facility because I grew up in East Harlem and would always walk by,” explained Maria. “But I also knew there wasn't a lot of ‘me’ in here.” It was somewhere she and her peers viewed as a place “for people who can afford it."
She described the early years of her career as “an era of trying to figure things out as a young adult.”
“And then it all just came back to, 'you like working with kids,'” she said. “So, I fully embraced it." Maria already had a background in running youth sports leagues, creating curriculums, developing kids via sports and organized recess, and training staff working with students. “I had a connection who worked at Asphalt Green who encouraged me to apply and try my hand at coaching recess, and the rest is history.”
For several years now, a large part of her role at the organization has been strengthening and expanding a partnership with the Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers just up the street from our Upper East Side campus. As someone who grew up in East Harlem and was at one point in her life part of the Isaacs community, it’s been an aspect of her work that is very close to her heart. Many of the kids in those communities also have access to two of our longest-running community programs, Recess Enhancement Program (REP) at their schools and Waterproofing.
Additionally, over 30 children of all ages in the two communities receive access to sports and fitness opportunities through a scholarship initiative that Maria administers. The kids were awarded full coverage toward the cost of our fee-based youth programs to be used across all sports and aquatics classes during the winter 2023 term. "For the first time in December 2022, we held orientation sessions for scholarship awardees to get acquainted with Asphalt Green," explained Maria. "The sessions were a warm welcome to these families who were very much looking forward to taking part.”
Maria wanted to give them the opportunity to tour and learn more about Asphalt Green. “These are folks who live down the street and look at these buildings for most of their lives but have never stepped foot in them,” said Maria. “It was such a simple invitation, but it meant so much to the residents because we’re breaking down that invisible wall that has always been there.”
Learn more about this scholarship by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus, you can make an impact and help give more kids a chance to find a sport they love by donating to support this scholarship program and more.
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