In the summer before my last semester of undergrad I volunteered at a school garden teaching at risk youth how to build, maintain, and grow gardens. It was hard work but extremely satisfying, knowing that I was giving my students skills that they could use to supplement their diet with healthy food options. The garden helped keep kids active, and provided a safe environment. One of the administrators at the school asked me what I wanted to do after graduation. I answered, teach history I guess. He had a perplexed on look on his face and told me that “whatever you choose to do make sure you have a passion for it.” That conversation got me to thinking, what issues was I passionate about? I decided that I would take a couple of hours and write down some things I was passionate about. After writing down a list of about ten things, three or four stuck out; working with kids in urban areas to facilitate a decrease in childhood obesity, encouraging physical activity and healthy living in low income and under-served communities, and planning, implementing, coordinating, and supervising before and after school programs to ensure kids eat properly and have help with school work as well as receiving mentoring. I did some research and found out that churches, schools, and many non-profits were tackling these issues as well as other issues vital to sustainable and healthy communities. As I looked at different groups that advocate for healthy communities I came across an article about the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). When I visited the website I had an epiphany. Their mantra was conservation, social equity, health and wellness. A light switch went on in my head and I decided that I wanted to be a part of the work of the NRPA and organization like them. I was graduating in a few short months with degree in history, so the question now became HOW?
My next move was to figure out how I could get my foot in the door of the Parks and Recreation profession. I knew I needed to go back to school, but I had three kids a grandchild and worked 48 hrs a week. Despite theses obstacles I decided to look at schools in North Carolina that offered Parks and Recreation degrees. When I saw that North Carolina State had a Parks, Recreation, Tourism management degree I decided that this degree would be perfect for my life circumstances, and provide me with the foundation to take off and running upon completion. As a Health Unit Coordinator in the Medicine Intensive Care Unit at UNC Healthcare for 20 years I had skills that i felt would translate well in my transition into the Parks and Recreation field. I just needed the opportunity, in July of 2014 I received my acceptance letter informing me that I had been accepted into the PRTM Online program .
As I previewed the classes I would be taking over the next two years, I thought to myself for the first time of many that this program will prepare me to be an asset to any organization that hires me. This feeling had me excited and motivated as I logged on to my first collaborate session for Conceptual Foundations. Conceptual Foundations was the perfect first class because it allowed me to use the research and writing skills I had honed as a history major in undergrad. Coming into the program I was trying figure out how this program would help me to positively impact the health of my community. One my most memorable assignments during the program was the Grant proposal assignment in PRT 503 Advanced Fiscal Management. Over the course of four lectures Dr. Edwards walked me through the steps of creating and using grant proposals to secure funding to improve the health of vulnerable populations and promote healthy, active communities. All of my professors were extremely helpful, I was pleasantly surprised that I had greater access to my professors in the online environment then I did during my undergraduate years. One of the challenges of an online environment is dealing with IT and tech issues. Erin Adair the programs instruction technologist was invaluable in helping me navigate any technical problems I encountered.
The courses I have taken include fiscal management, data management, organizational leadership, marketing, and risk management have given me the knowledge and ability to improve any organization I am involved with. This program allowed me to interact and learn from professors who are some of the most well respected and acclaimed in their areas of specialization. Creating healthy communities is what inspired me to pursue a career in Parks and Recreation. In this 2 year journey I have had the opportunity to be taught by professors who’s efforts have transformed communities, and set industry standards. Michael Edwards, Aaron Hip, and Bob Barcelona have all championed initiatives to create healthy, sustainable and active communities. I was worried initially that not having a background in PRTM might be an impediment to my success in this program. What I found was that not having a “go to” organization allowed me to learn about the organizational operations of numerous parks and recreation organizations including The Town of Cary Parks and Recreation, Durham (NC) Parks and Recreation, and Greenville (SC) Parks and Recreation. The relationship I built and contacts I made should serve me well as begin my journey into the wide world of PRTM.
The Cohorts all here
My cohort members were engaging and always kept the classes fun and interesting. It only took a few collaborate sessions for me to feel a kinship and a connection to them. My fellow cohort members were always willing to share their professional experiences. Over the past two years I have built relationships that I feel will last a lifetime. Some of my best memories include Fosters sharing his expertise from over 25 years of Parks & Recreation experience, Paul’s wry sense of humor, Johnny’s informative insights, Lindsey and Julie’s unique and informative takes on all things Parks and Recreation, Lorraine’s military related recreation perspectives, Coach Drivers sports insights, Sherard’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of college athletics, Laura’s journey into grand-motherhood, and Cory’s Panthers and UNC W Sea-hawks reaching new heights. Accepting the invitation to become part of the North Carolina State family is truly one of the best decisions I have ever made.