Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How Young Professionals Engage Underserved Communities

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

How Young Professionals Engage Underserved Communities

Article excerpt

Parks & Recreation magazine wanted to learn how young professionals engage traditionally underserved populations to increase their access to services. So, we reached out to three talented individuals for their insights: Allison Williams, a MobilizeGreen Resource Assistant intern with the U.S. Forest Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has been a member of NRPA since 2008; Atuya O. Cornwell, CPRP, who holds a bachelor's degree in exercise sports science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an master's from Pfeiffer University, currently serves as a representative on NRPA's Young Professional Network, Program Committee and Public Policy Committee. He has worked with The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Wheaton, Maryland, and also with the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the 2015 recipient of the NRPA's Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award; and Kayode Lewis, M.Ed., CPRP, who holds a bachelor's in education and master's of education in teaching and learning--policy and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park, serves as Coordinator of Instructional and Youth programs for the University of New Hampshire Campus Recreation Department and is the 2014 NRPA Young Professional Fellow, 2013 AAPRA Young Professional Extern and 2012 NRPA Diversity Fellow.

Parks & Recreation magazine: How young professionals help to increase access for underserved populations?

Kayode Lewis: Do your due diligence. Determine who your customers are. Census data provides a statistical portrait of the ethnicities, ages, level of education and income of your residents. Value lies in the knowledge gained through informal interactions with the key stakeholders (community members, seasoned staff, etc.) familiar with your community's nuances. Treat each citizen as a key stakeholder. A socially equitable approach requires an understanding of patrons who are involved. This information can be used to develop services for populations who lack access. It is our responsibility to provide quality services for everyone.

Allison Williams: As an intern with the U.S. Forest Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, I was tasked with strengthening youth involvement and diversity through outreach and volunteer service. Engaging diverse populations takes passion and willingness to make partnerships work. This job is not a one-time deal. Providing youth with a seat at the table to discuss environmental and sustainability issues requires an ongoing commitment: attending meetings, joining coalitions and really being the face for change.

P&R: How can we best assess the public's need in order to deliver services that are in-demand?

Lewis: An assertive communications style requires the sender to be clear and firm in his or her intent while maintaining the respect of others. Assertive communicators employ empathy in every interaction. They speak "with" and "to" their patrons. They possess an awareness of their own socioeconomic status and its implication on their notion of privilege and bias. Identify and design assessments to elicit the feedback to develop programs for all patrons. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), needs assessments and public information from city council/ executive board meetings provide professionals with the tools that can help them effectively gauge the interests of their communities.

P&R: What types of professional development resources can leisure professionals use (beyond asking their supervisors) to gain the skill set necessary to serve marginalized portions of their communities? …

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