Finding value in experiences you have with people and within programs is a tool that takes you a long way. Growing up, I always wanted to be a physical therapist, but when I got to college and began studying Kinesiology, that quickly changed. My first semester was over, and I was stuck not knowing what I wanted to major in - let alone my career choice. Young-minded and confused, I remembered my first real job with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation at Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center under the award-winning, Recreation Employment Corp, or R.E.C., program. R.E.C. is a work-based learning program employing youth between the ages of 14-17 as employees/mentors at neighborhood recreation centers, nature centers and aquatic facilities. During my time there, I learned lessons about making a change, the impact the smallest interactions can make and overall how recreation can guide youth to better lives and adults to a more self-fulfilling one. That experience served as a precursor to what eventually would become my career, which explains why I am here today.
As fortunate as I was to have that past experience, the learning didn’t stop there. This year was my first time attending the Carolinas Joint Conference, and it was one of the most eye-opening and richest experiences I’ve ever had. The amount of knowledge gained, the people I met and conference as whole provided an immeasurable amount of joy and value. I met people who I now look to as motivation to keep pushing myself in the field of Park and Recreation because they shared stories and knowledge with me that I hope to one day attain. Along with knowledge gained, connections were renewed. I reunited with Terri Stowers, who recognized me from my time in the R.E.C. program; overwhelmed with joy, we discussed how impactful the program was for me and how she, along with the Bette Rae staff, impacted my decision to pursue a career in Park and Recreation. The joint conference is a highlight in my young career and an event I would highly recommend young professionals like myself to attend.
Now, I’m currently a Recreation Assistant for the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department and student at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I’m taking the knowledge gained at school and bringing it into my career. You really start to see the impact of experiences gained whether it be via school or another professional. A great personal example came after taking CTR-314, or Recreation Services with Underrepresented Groups, with Dr. Schleien, a marvelous professor. I feel I gained the ability to view facilities and situations through a lens of inclusion, so now anywhere I go, I’m always looking for a way to adapt activities and facilities to make them more accessible to everyone. Along with that experience, my curriculum and professors will offer many more lessons that will help me attain more skills that will prove worthy in my career.
Discovering my love for recreation was truly a blessing and helped me figure out what’s been right in front of my face the whole time - that Park and Recreation was my calling. Finding value in the experiences I’ve had since the age of 14 has made it easier for me to turn my knowledge into actions. It’s easy to talk the talk, but through enriching experiences, plus knowledge and lessons and with the help of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation department along with my facility director, Gina Carmon, I will become equipped with tools that will help me walk the walk. Therefore, professionals, whether you are 3 months or 20 years into your career, I challenge you to take the interactions you hold dear and turn them into outeractions in order to make a needed change in your community. Make the change you know is needed, and be the difference you want to see.
Meet the Author
Malik Diggs is currently a student at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Recreation Assistant with Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Parks Management with a concentration in Community Recreation and Event Planning. He hopes to one day become a Director of Park and Recreation, but is taking it day-by-day while taking advantage of opportunities presented to him. He’s a proud dog dad of a Morkie by the name of Milo. His favorite quote is by Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He challenges you to push the envelope and make a change. Malik can be reached at email@example.com.
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