Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Certifiably Worth It

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Certifiably Worth It

Article excerpt

Attract minority candidates to the field through certification programs at the university level.

What is the future of the parks, recreation and leisure service profession? Do we know where we are going? More importantly, who will take us there? Many of our pioneers have passed away or retired, and others are graying in anticipation of retirement along with millions of Americans. Who will be the practitioners to lead our profession and assume the leadership positions vacated by Rob Toalson, Mary Merrill Anderson, Chuck Pezoldt, Ira Hutchinson, Dean Tice and others? Further, many of our academic pioneers have long since retired, entered early retirement programs, or have passed away. Who will be the next Jack Kelly, Phyllis Ford, Tom Goodale or Bev Driver? Some would argue that this is much to do about nothing, and new leaders will naturally emerge. Perhaps, but there appears to be increasing concern by professionals and the academic community as to who will become the next leaders of the park and recreation profession.

There have been a number of studies that have documented the decline of students and faculty who identify themselves with public parks and recreation. If not addressed, this decline will have a long term, significant impact on the park and recreation workforce, and ultimately the communities we serve. It has also been said that when middle-class, suburban, white America has a cold; low-income, urban, black America develops cancer. That is, the decline in the park and recreation workforce may have an even deeper negative impact on those low-income, urban communities with higher concentrations of minorities. Research has shown that the group is significantly under-represented at all levels in the recreation profession and within academia. There is tremendous need for qualified minority park and recreation professionals to serve various communities across the United States.

Further, changing demographics have resulted in a population shift where minorities represent nearly one-third of the U.S. population. This comes at a time when fewer minority students are choosing to major in public parks and recreation. With the decrease in faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in public parks and recreation, how then does the field sustain itself? It is clear that if the field intends to remain relevant, alternative recruitment and retention strategies must be developed.

In reviewing and analyzing the findings of a Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department internal human resource survey, and working closely with the department's administrators, one finding appeared to be the most pressing, affecting all areas of service delivery. Most of the staff had been employed by the park department for many years and had not received adequate training for managing and delivering services to urban youth. For example, very few of the park staff held college degrees or had ever taken courses related to recreation management or youth services. Further, those with college degrees did not major in park and recreation or related fields. Also, none of the staff were certified park and recreation professionals. Although many park staff were competent care givers, staffing issues needed to be addressed if the department intended to provide comprehensive urban youth services to Miami-Dade County residents.

This is imperative due to the critical role park and recreation staff play in the development of youth. It is widely accepted that quality staff and supervisors foster the foundations for successful human interactions by implementing practices and activities that develop trust, respect, integrity, consistency and self-esteem. …

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