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The NC Recre8'er - is the Blog for NC Recreation and Parks Professionals. We will feature posts from NCRPA members and staff about all the latest news, insights and tips in our field and around the state. Topics will include but are not limited to: Health and Wellness, Outdoor Recreation, Athletics, Advocacy, Aquatics, Therapeutic Recreation, Special Events, Marketing, Parks and Greenways, Cultural Resources and more! If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact Matt at NCRPA or 919-832-5868. The opinions of The NC Recre8'er (NCRPA) blog contributors don't necessarily reflect the editorial position of North Carolina Recreation and Park Association as a whole.


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April Showers

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 24, 2017
Updated: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Everybody knows the old adage: April showers bring May flowers. Sometimes, the rain can wreak havoc on your outdoor recreation programs. This wellness blog will give you some easy tips on how to stay active indoors when the weather's not cooperating.

Spring in agencies across North Carolina usually means the return of outdoor athletics. Soccer, baseball, and softball are some of the major athletics that are coming back outside. When rain strikes and field conditions become unplayable, players are often sent home in disappointment without engaging in any physical activity.

If your department has any facility availability, there are a few indoor activities you can offer athletic participants instead. When communicating with athletic leagues regarding cancellations, be sure to refer them to this “rain-out” plan. Provide your youth league coaches with the following skill drills that can easily be conducted indoors:

Soccer Drills:

Baseball/Softball Drills:

The internet has tons of athletic drills that can be easily implemented indoors. Depending on your indoor facility availability, a quick search can allow you to adapt indoor drills to fit the needs of your athletic leagues.

The internet can also be very useful when your plans of exercising outdoors get ruined by the bad weather. In September, the wellness blog wrote about online fitness and provided some great resources to make the most out of your indoor fitness routines.

Additionally, springtime brings an increased chance of severe weather in our state. Be sure that you are aware of your department’s severe weather plan to ensure everyone’s safety. It may also be a good idea to invest in a few outdoor thunder strike monitors. These little pagers will notify outdoor staff when a lightning strike has occurred, and how far away it is.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ideas on how to approach rain cancellations in the future!


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Underwater Egg Hunt - Mecklenburg County

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 17, 2017
Updated: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation holds an annual underwater egg hunt at one of their indoor pool facilities, Ray's Splash Planet. When looking for creative and active egg hunt ideas, I could not miss out on reaching out to the facility for more details. Luckily, Daniel Leatherman, a facility manager at Ray's Splash Planet was kind enough to answer a few questions about their event that took place on Thursday, April 13th. Check out our interview below to get some great ideas on how to incorporate a similar event in your community!


1. How did the idea for the underwater egg hunt come about?

Ray's Splash Planet is open year round, and through the years we have added multiple special events. Our main three events are Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. We like to embrace the fact that we are one of a few indoor water parks in the area, and try to incorporate a fun water aspect into all we do. This is evident with our Swim with Santa, Haunted Pool Deck tour, and of course the Underwater Egg Hunt.
2. What other activities do you offer at the hunt?

The main attraction is obviously the egg hunt, but we do offer a few other activities. A temporary tattoo station, coloring, and craft areas are staples at our special events. The Easter Bunny and the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation mascot, RAY will be making the rounds all night. The facility opens to participants at 6:00 pm and the hunts start at 6:30 pm. This year will be our very first ‘Duck Drop’ for adults. Each adult that stays until 7:30 pm will be assigned a number that corresponds to a rubber ducky, and we will race all the ducks down the slide and around the lazy river.  Three winners will receive a prize basket.
3. What prizes are included in the eggs? Is there a mixture of floating and sunken eggs?

We use both floating and sinkable eggs at this event, and all of our eggs are empty. To make this program more cost-effective and sustainable, we have decided to have all kids trade in any eggs they find for a prize pack. The prize pack is an age appropriate goody bag similar to what you would see at a birthday party. This year we will have a special golden egg hidden for each hunt, and the finder will receive a special prize.
4. How do you staff this event?

All hands on deck. We have scheduled four full-time staff: Facility Manager, Pool Supervisor, Front Desk Supervisor, and Admin. Assistant. We have 10 dry part-time staff handling front of house including two cash registers, crafts, concession stand, and crowd control. We have around 20 wet part-time staff to include photographers, pool crowd control, traditional lifeguards, and characters.
5. How do you market this event to the public?

In the past we have had a live morning news crew on site, which is great - except for the tough part of recruiting kids to play in our pool at 6:00 am to advertise. Additionally, we do Facebook, targeted participant emails, a press release, and around 20 free online posts with blogs/event calendars.
6. Are there any notable challenges that occur when trying to plan an event like this?

Our pool area capacity is 555 people, and our goal is around 300-400 total people for this event. We would hate to turn away anyone, which is often not a factor with most outdoor hunts. Starting each egg hunt is also challenging - as one errant whistle by a lifeguard to stop a patron from running can set off an entire flock of 3-4 year old’s. Once the first kid commits, the hunt is on. Parking is a major challenge onsite. We have around 180 spots including our overflow lot, so parking can be tight when you factor in 34 staff plus 400 participants.
7. What has been the biggest success of this event?

This event is super fun. As with most egg hunts, the “hunt” only lasts 30 seconds, but it is an intense 30 seconds. We do allow the public to use the other parts of the pool (big slide, lap lane, lazy river) during hunts, and also encourage the craft areas and bunny pictures. The night is full of fun, and we have had great success with this annual program.


Special thanks to Daniel and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation for sharing their great event with us! If your department conducts any cool and active special events, I'd love to know about it! Email me at to share. 

Until next time,


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Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Healthy Egg Hunts!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Springtime is officially here! Last weekend, your department may have held your annual egg hunt event. These traditions are likely a huge part of your communities celebrations. This wellness blog will give you some healthy ways to celebrate this year and in the future.

According to CNBC, Easter outranks both Valentine’s Day and Halloween for the number one candy consuming holiday. The article states that in 2015, $823 million of candy was purchased in just the week before Easter!

It’s safe to say that community holiday events and candy go hand in hand. Whether it’s eggs filled with jellybeans at an egg hunt, or baskets delivered by the bunny with all our favorite treats, the candy keeps on flowing.

Although eating candy in moderation is probably fine for most individuals, binging on candy should be avoided. One way to assist in this candy moderation is to get create when stuffing your eggs.

We all know that plastic eggs are typically filled with candy, but there are a number of different options that your department can substitute. From Goldfish crackers to small toys, the possibilities are endless. Below, I have included a list of some of my favorite egg stuffers, and where to purchase them:

It is important to choose appropriate stuffers for different age groups. Unfortunately, a lot of non-edible stuffers will be too small for children under 3 years old. For these groups, use things such as stickers and tattoos. This could be a simple way to reduce the amount of candy consumed in your community.

If you are also making baskets, these same techniques can be applied. Subbing out candy for these fun items is sure to make any kid happy.

I hope that this wellness blog gave you some ideas on how to hold healthier holiday events! If your department has already integrated these tactics into your programs, I’d love to know about it! Feel free to email me at


Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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April is National Gardening Month

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy April! If you did not know, April is National Garden Month. National Garden Month was first celebrated in April of 1987, with President Reagan signing it into a proclamation. The National Gardening Association encourages “everyone to grow gardens, give plants to others, and help beautify our communities.” This wellness blog will detail the importance of gardening, and give your department some great resources to consider using in starting or improving upon a community garden.

To many, gardening is very therapeutic. Research tends to back up this claim. According to the Michigan State University extension, “Gardening has emerged in recent years as a scientifically proven stress reliever.” Additionally, a study done by the Journal of Health Psychology determined gardening gave test subjects a higher decrease in stress levels than reading.

Gardening even has some surprising physical benefits! According to the NCRPA wellness toolkit, “An hour of light gardening can burn as many calories in the average adult as spending an hour walking 3.5 miles. Gardening can increase physical activity in children, and has also been linked to greater physical activity and life satisfaction in seniors.”

The CDC considers gardening a moderate level activity. “Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.”

So far, we have discussed the physical and mental benefits of gardening, but what about all of the nutrition benefits from all of the fresh produce gardening produces? According to, the benefits of gardening are bountiful for the following reasons. First, the food produced from gardening is the freshest you can get. Additionally, people who garden generally eat more fruits and vegetables than people who do not garden.

Interested in starting a garden in your community? The following resources will give you a great start!

The NCRPA Wellness initiative has a variety of resources regarding starting, maintaining, or improving upon a garden in your community. First, check out this great resource on the NCRPA Toolkit. Additionally, our wellness webinar from February 2016 covered community gardens and offers a lot of good ideas regarding starting, maintaining, and programming from a community garden in Black Mountain, NC.

Additionally, consider this resource from the American Community Garden Association which details 10 Steps to starting a community garden.

Another piece of advice is to reach out to other recreation and park departments throughout the state to hear about their garden programs. There are a number of community gardening programs run by our agencies, and they can offer great advice.

If your department has a successful garden program, I’d love to know about it! Email me at

Until next time,


Tags:  community gardens  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  Wellness 

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YPN Blog: April 2017

Posted By Leanne Pressley, Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks, Friday, March 31, 2017

Speak about it! The Importance of Public Speaking

We all have had that moment when we were told or asked to present in front of others. So many questions come up:

  1. What topic(s) do I discuss?
  2. What do I wear?
  3. How long do I have to present?
  4. What is the setting I will be presenting in?

See, blog writing is easy; it does not involve the average person’s public speaking fears. We have the opportunity to address people from behind a computer screen. Don’t worry about what to wear. For all we know you could be writing this in the comfort of your home in your Power Ranger Pajamas - no judgments!  (The new movie looks good, but it sure can’t beat the original. GO, GO Power Rangers!) No worrying about how long or short to write about the topic of discussion. Remember the old build a burger trick?

  1. Bun: Topic Sentence (No need to get fancy with a brioche bun, an original sesame is just fine)
  2. Toppings: Supporting Sentence 1 (The classics)
  3. Meat : Supporting Sentence 2 (Veggie Patty)
  4. Toppings: Supporting Sentence 3 (Because we just can’t get enough of the good stuff)
  5. Bun: Conclusion sentence

See, no fears. Everyone likes a hamburger, and, oh yeah, you also made a dynamite paragraph for your topic of discussion.

Public Speaking can be nerve wracking, fearful, and can make a person feel judged, but the benefits of public speaking are rewarding, educational, and enlightening. If you feel stuck in a rut and can’t decide on what to speak about, no worries, here are some great ideas!

  1. Programming
  2. Internships
  3. Leadership experience
  4. Advancement in your professional career
  5. Community Involvement and Safety
  6. Fundraising
  7. Networking

In need of a setting to present?  I am so glad you asked!

  1. Your Alma Mater: There is no better feeling than walking through the doors that pioneered the way to your future.
  2. Conferences, and not just for the CEU’s, but also for networking with other professionals in your field of expertise or where you see yourself in the future.
  3. Webinars: Remember you are the voice behind the screen.
  4. In house with your department: This is a great place to start, by practicing with co-workers and speaking at staff meetings.

I had the opportunity to speak at my Alma Mater on March 29th. I admit I was nervous, scared, and even felt like I was going to pass out, but I had the chance to tell my story and what I love to do every day as a Senior Recreation Leader. That was all the fuel I needed to start my fire. I had the most common human moment, saying the word “um,” but I remained focused and continued to cover my topics.

Public speaking can be scary, but it can also be an opportunity to shine and inform the world about who you are, what you do, and prepare the next generation of young professionals to rise up. And hey, if all else fails, imagine everyone in their underwear!

Meet the Author

Leanne Pressley is a 28 year old Greensboro Native who works as a Senior Recreation Leader with the Special Populations Unit for the City of Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2014 with a B.S Degree in Recreation and Parks with a concentration in Community Therapeutic Studies. She is a Certified and Licensed Recreational Therapist in the State of North Carolina.  She is a very creative thinker and writer. She enjoys everything about nature and loves food.

Leanne can be reached at or 336-727-2423.


If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  public speaking  young professionals  ypn 

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HOST Standards

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 27, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Healthy Out-of-School Time, or HOST standards, were created by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG) . These standards give out of school time providers a great resource to offer healthy snacks and physical activity to children.

According to the AHG website, the HOST standards “gives out-of-school time providers a science-based framework designed to help create environments where youth are encouraged to eat healthier and move more.” The website continues to say “Our initiative works to support the staff, families, and youth at these sites (Afterschool programs, community centers, summer camps, and other out-of-school time settings) around the country in their efforts to help young people make healthy life choices.

To assist in the adoption of HOST standards in your department, there are a few steps to take. First, take the HOST assessment. This assessment helps your department identify current strengths and weaknesses for 11 Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards.

The HOST Assessment lets test takers select “Yes”, “No”, or “Not Applicable”. When the assessment is completed, opportunities for growth and areas of strengths should be highlighted. These strengths and opportunities will allow your department to create an action plan on how to best adopt HOST standards moving forward.

The second step in the adoption of HOST standards is establishing an action plan. To establish your action plan, the AHG put together a five-step approach:

Step 1: Choose best practices/goals to work on (most sites do best when working on 1-5 best practices at a time).

Step 2: Review AHG implementation strategies, examples and resources

Step 3: Take notes on how you plan to implement healthy changes to meet this best practice.

Step 4: Revisit, review and revise! Update your progress, add more notes or mark an item complete to automatically update your Healthy Out-of-School Time Assessment.

Step 5: Add new items to your Action Plan as you complete other items! Share your progress with staff, parents, youth, and community members by posting on our Action Plan Poster.

To learn more about getting started with your action plan, check out this short video.

You may be wondering why your department should adopt HOST standards. According to AHG, “studies show that youth that eats healthier and moves more get better grades, attend school more, and have improved self-esteem, social-relationships, and leadership skills.” I think that HOST standards are extremely beneficial and adoption should be strongly considered for our recreation and park programs.

When adopting HOST standards, be sure to use the resources available to you. Whether you are on the AHG’s resources page or accessing the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit, these resources can help a lot. I hope that your department considers using the HOST standards in the future!

Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Spring into Wellness

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 20, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

Today is the first day of spring! With the changing of the season, new wellness opportunities arise. Spring’s the perfect time to get outside, eat in-season fruits and vegetables, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. This wellness blog will give your department a few ideas to help celebrate spring in your community.

According to the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit, over 60% of NC Children do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Luckily, springtime means a variety of North Carolina produce comes back into season. From now until June, everything from asparagus to strawberries (my personal favorite) will be at their peak ripeness. A great resource I like to use to figure out what is in season is the North Carolina Produce Availability Chart. This local produce can become a great asset to your department.  To learn more about using local produce in your agency programs, check out the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit.

Another exciting thing about spring is all of the plants that come back to life in our parks. These plants hold a great opportunity to get people excited about coming out and enjoying your park. If your agency has any green spaces that a lot of wildflowers bloom in, there are a few easy tips to get people even more excited about coming to check them out.

An example of a great program idea to get people out to your parks is to hold a “wildflower pilgrimage” similar to the one that Great Smoky Mountain National Park holds annually. For 67 years, people have flocked to the Smokies to partake in the pilgrimage to see all of the wildflowers. Although this is an example of a large-scale program, your department can hold similar events. Find out when the wildflowers will be at their peak and invite your community out. Set up a few simple flower crafts, educate the public about the types of flowers they will be seeing, and offer additional springtime activities - the possibilities are endless! This type of event gets people up and walking around your park - something that is always encouraged!

Additionally, spring brings the opportunity to move programs back outside. I personally love this shift, and really enjoy getting back outside for athletics. One thing to keep in mind is the chance to take some traditional indoor programs outside. Yoga and pilates are great candidates for offering outdoor classes. If you are even more ambitious, try an outdoor basketball or dodgeball league. Not only can participants take in the scenery, but they can also take in extra Vitamin D from the sun. Doing something like this can inject new life into your traditional programming.

One tip that you can take to personally improve your health and wellness is to take advantage of the longer days. Daylights saving time kicked in and although we lost an hour of sleep, we gained an hour of sunlight. Use this extra daylight to get outside and active after your workday.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ways to celebrate spring in your department! If your department has any unique springtime wellness programs, I'd love to know about it. Email me at

Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 13, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 6, 2017

With Saint Patrick’s Day approaching, your department may be gearing up for an annual Saint Patrick’s Day event. I can remember attending my hometown’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade every year growing up. This wellness blog is intended to give you five healthy ideas to help you celebrate the day.

1. Healthy “Green” Smoothie

A great alternative to green colored adult beverages is a healthy green smoothie. Just throw spinach, pineapple, mango, and bananas in a blender with a little bit of water and you’ll have a great, healthy smoothie to enjoy. Whip up these smoothies and serve them in small, sample-sized cups to attendees to your morning programs.

2. Saint Patrick’s Day Gold Hunt

A cool active activity for Saint Patrick’s Day is to hold a Leprechaun “gold hunt”. Similar to an Easter Egg Hunt, hide plastic gold coins around your facility. Participants dressed in their favorite green attire can take their “pot-o-gold” and set out to collect the most gold coins. Participants can then take home their bounty, or exchange it for other appropriate Saint Patrick’s Day items. This activity is a fun way to get active and is an easy activity that does not involve unhealthy foods.

3. Leprechaun Walk/Run Event

Another way to get your community active is to hold a leprechaun walk/run event. Pick a route through your local park or community, and encourage people to come out in their favorite Saint Patrick’s Day outfits. Market this event in your community centers, parks, social media pages, and more to get the community out.

4. Four Leaf Clover Craft

In your children’s programs, a simple four leaf clover craft is a great activity for Saint Patrick’s day. After the craft is complete, take a trip outside to visit patches of clovers. Have children look for their own real life four leaf clovers! This craft gets you outside and is an alternative to unhealthy Saint Patrick’s Day foods.

5. “Green” Potluck Staff Lunch

Saint Patrick’s Day is all about green. This brings a great opportunity to incorporate healthy green foods into your diet. Have a healthy potluck lunch with your staff, where each person brings a different “green dish.” Encourage these dishes to be comprised of mostly green vegetables, and other nutrient-rich green foods. If you need some inspiration, click this link.


I hope that you have a happy and healthy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Until next time,


Tags:  healthy eating  wellness 

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March is Nutrition Month!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 6, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I can’t believe that it is already March! If you did not know, March is national Nutrition Month. Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, national Nutrition Month is a nutrition education campaign that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices, sound eating habits, and physical activity. This wellness blog will give your department some ways to celebrate Nutrition Month, and why good nutrition is important.

Good nutrition is essential to health. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S.” Additionally, “In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.”  

As recreation and park professionals, your department plays an essential role in providing nutrition and physical activity resources to the public. This Nutrition Month, there are a few resources you can use to promote healthy nutrition in your community.

One great resource for Nutrition Month is the Eat Right National Nutrition Month Celebration Toolkit. If your department is looking for easy ways to promote National Nutrition month, this is a great place to start. Some event ideas include:

  • Scheduling a story time with nutrition-focused books

  • Organize a National Nutrition Month presentation at your local park district or senior center.

  • Organize a food donation campaign for a local food pantry or shelter.

  • Hold a "healthy recipe" contest among employees.

  • Develop a program that involves kids drawing and creating a meal based on MyPlate, using the Choose MyPlate Coloring Page.

  • Organize a sports nutrition education session after school or during gym class.

Visit the National Nutrition Month Celebration Toolkit for even more event ideas!

If your department is interested in starting a healthy cooking course, check out or NCRPA November Wellness Webinar! This webinar shares some useful information regarding healthy eating and gives a few implementable ways to incorporate them into your department.

Additionally, the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit gives some cool resources on healthy cooking and nutrition programs. Please consider using these tactics in planning your department nutrition programs in the future.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you ideas on how to celebrate nutrition month in your department. If your department has a great nutrition program, I’d love to know about it. Email me at with any details!

Until next time,

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YPN Blog: March 2017

Posted By Eliza Kiser, Pullen Arts Center Director with Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Thursday, March 2, 2017

Leading Through Innovation As Young Professionals

As a child, I loved school, but I definitely fell victim to one of the trappings of performance-based academic systems; the perfectionist inside of me took over, and finding the “right” answer became the force that drove me. As I grew up and went out of the school system and into the world on my own, I struggled to make sense of my place in a messy world where there are so few right answers.

I’ll admit, the first gray hair I found a couple of years ago now has a few friends, and, with seven years in Parks and Recreation, I’m not as young a professional as I used to be. Still, it was a privilege for me to attend the NCRPA State Conference in October through the Young Professional Fellowship Program. It was my first NCRPA Conference, and I somehow got both myself and my inner perfectionist in with one conference badge! As an arts person in parks and recreation, sometimes I still struggle to make sense of my place in the profession. At the NCRPA Conference, I was again reminded of how wonderful the struggle to find your place can be, and I value the opportunity to share with you some of the questions and ideas that were sparked for me at the conference.

2016’s conference theme of “Leading Through Innovation” was a nod to both the excellent programs highlighted during sessions and the outstanding professionals that are making them happen. The further I get from the conference, though, the more I see the statement as something bigger with more important implications.

Leading through innovation is a concept for us to embrace as young professionals not only in the ways that we carry it back to our cities and towns, but also in the ways that we approach finding our places in the profession.

Our profession has been around for generations and each day I’m grateful for and reliant on the work that has come before me.  As a young professional, how can I honor the legacy of our profession, learn from where we have been, and remain relevant in a changing world? How do I find the balance between stewardship and entrepreneurship that is key in our profession?

I think the answer lies in each of us.

From where I stand at the intersection of being a young professional and having some experience under my belt, the best thing about being a young professional is the gift of not having your path set for you yet. At this intersection, there’s plenty of room for innovation, not only in the realm of programming, but also in the ways that you can develop as a professional. Embracing the struggle to find your place can force you to ask questions about yourself and your goals that an easy, clear path might never force you to ask.

At the conference, Dr. Deb Jordan presented a session on program evaluation entitled “What we do: does it matter?” The more I’ve thought about Dr. Jordan’s concepts and best practices for program evaluation, the more I’ve come to think they could be interesting tools for a different type of evaluation. What if we began leading through innovation by taking an innovative approach to our professional development? What if we used these tools to evaluate and map our own professional growth? What if these were the questions we thought through as asked for guidance from our supervisors and mentors on our journey toward leading through innovation?

Here are Dr. Jordan’s program evaluation tips that I’m going to use as tools for my designing my own professional development:

Don’t ask questions if:
You already know the information.
You’re not going to use the information.
The information won’t matter.
You can’t do anything about it.

Why are you asking the question?
Will potential answers tell you what you want to know?
Will you get enough information to be able to make a decision and take action?
How are you going to analyze the responses?

As young professionals, are we asking the questions we need to figure out where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there? Are we asking enough questions of ourselves and our line of work?

In her conference keynote, Dr. Maureen Dougherty defined innovation as empowerment plus creativity. As young professionals trying to develop and lead through innovation, how can we seek empowerment from our leadership and how can we prepare to give empowerment as a gift to the next generation of professionals? What would happen if we set goals and performance measures for our own ability to empower the people we lead? What would happen if we set goals and performance measures for our own creativity as leaders and as public servants?

As stewards of public resources, we have to strive for efficiency and performance, and, especially as a young professional, it’s easy to put your full effort into trying to find the “right” way to handle the messy business of serving human beings. In pursuit of a “right” way to serve our communities, are we getting stuck in the weeds and missing the big picture? Are we trying so hard to find the “right” answer that we sometimes fail to realize that the question has changed? Do we think too much about our profession and not enough about the world that’s changing around us? Where’s the right balancing point?

As young professionals, we have choices.  Will we stick to trying to find “right” answers?  Or will we embrace our messy world and its lack of right answers and do our best to serve by growing and developing ourselves as leaders through innovation?  What impact will our choice have on our profession and all of the young professionals who come after us?

I can’t wait to find out.

Meet the Author

Raised on a farm in rural NC, Eliza Kiser graduated from NC State University’s College of Design and started her career working as a project manager at an exhibit design firm. Eliza was born a public servant but took a winding road to find herself today serving artists of all ages as Director of Pullen Arts Center for Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. A child who loved playing with blocks, Eliza continues to enjoy trying to put ideas, people, tools, and resources together in new ways to build cool stuff.

Eliza can be reached at or 919-996-6126.


If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  conference  innovation  leadership  young professionals  ypn 

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Pokemon Go Update

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 27, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017

 Pokemon Go fever is back! In July of 2016, the mobile smartphone app Pokemon Go launched for download in the United States. Since the launch of the smartphone game, it has attracted millions of players, making it one of the most popular mobile apps. The initial popularity of Pokemon Go took a decline in recent months - but with the game's biggest update yet, players are expected to come back out.

For those of you who don’t know, Pokemon go is an “augmented reality” mobile phone app. The player’s location is tracked with an avatar on their phone screen, and fictional Pokemon characters are superimposed all around them. Players are required to get active to explore their surroundings in order to catch Pokemon characters, battle other users, and collect items to be used in the game at “Pokestops”, which are usually well-known landmarks in many of our parks.

The Pokemon Go update includes the long-awaited release of 80 beloved Pokemon characters to be caught. The release of the new characters into the game has garnered a lot of excitement. Players who previously captured all of the available Pokemon, (or have gotten bored with the game) now have extra incentive to get out and catch the next batch.  

As the wellness blog discussed in August, Pokemon Go has some great health benefits.  The whole premise of the game is based around the idea of getting outside and exploring in order to obtain in-game items, capture new Pokemon, and interact with other users in Pokemon training gyms. Additionally, the game requires players to walk certain distances to hatch Pokemon from eggs and to gain rewards to make their current Pokemon stronger.

Pokemon Go has recently added more features to encourage players to get active. A few months ago, a wearable device called Pokemon Go Plus  was released. Pokemon Go Plus connects to the user’s smartphone and keeps track of steps. It also vibrates when a Pokemon character is nearby. Additionally, Pokemon Go has added support to the Apple Watch. It allows users to track their workout while playing Pokemon Go.

The Pokemon Go update has major implications for recreation and park departments. If your local facilities have experienced a decline in Pokemon Go player traffic, you can expect to see more players out in the coming weeks. After the update, Pokemon Go climbed back to the top on the Apple App Store’s highest grossing applications. I went out to play the weekend of the update and saw big numbers of players out.                                                     

There are a few easy tactics that your department can use to encourage players to responsibly play Pokemon Go in your facilities. First, use social media to post messages encouraging the public to come out to play Pokemon Go in your parks. Make sure to emphasize that new Pokemon species have been discovered in your park.

Additionally, use Pokemon Go themed signage to communicate any specific rules to players in your park. Place the Pokemon Go logo on flyers to garner the attention of Pokemon Go players. Then, post any rules your department has regarding Pokemon go on the flyers. Place these flyers around “Pokestops” and “Pokemon Gyms” to ensure they are in spots where players frequent. Rules such as staying on marked trails, park hours, and no playing Pokemon Go while driving could be included.

In September 2016, myself and NCRPA Fellow Nicole Miller presented on Pokemon Go at the NCRPA Wellness webinar. The webinar gave an overview of Pokemon Go, explored the health benefits of the game, and detailed additional ways to make the most out of the application in your department. To view a recording of the webinar, click this link.

I hope that this blog post has given you some additional information regarding the Pokemon Go update. In regards to Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games, it is important for recreation and park departments to stay aware of the current trends. It is my opinion that these games are going to be increasingly popular in the future, and will help get people active in our parks. An increased awareness of these trends will help your department maximize the benefits brought to the public.

Until next time,


Tags:  Wellness 

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NRPA Commit to Health Initiative

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 20, 2017

Commit to Health is an NRPA initiative that supports the implementation and evaluation of healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards in parks and recreation departments throughout the country. This blog will give a brief overview of the Commit to Health Initiative, the HEPA standards that must be upheld, and how your department can get involved.

The Commit to Health initiative encourages departments to improve access to healthy foods, increase opportunities for physical activity, and to connect children to their natural environment. A sub-group of children, staff, and parents who went through the initiative participated in focus groups and surveys, finding valuable information regarding the success of the program. The evaluation measures found the following:

  • Children showed statistically significant increases in knowledge of nutrition topics

  • Child and adult healthy eating behaviors can be improved from summer camp programming

  • Children's behaviors changed to include eating new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Parents reported eating new fruits, vegetables and trying new foods, cooking/plating

  • Staff confirmed that many parents and children shared that their eating habits had changed throughout the programming.

According to the NRPA website, “The HEPA standards were created by a national coalition of out-of-school-time leaders to create evidence-based, practical values that foster the best possible nutrition and physical activity outcomes for children in grades K-12 attending out-of-school time programs.”

The HEPA standards cover a wide range of healthy eating and physical activity guidelines. The healthy eating standards include serving a fruit or vegetable at every meal/snack, providing potable water to all staff/participants for no charge, and serving no soda or sports drinks to elementary/middle school students. No access to television or movies, ensuring physical activity takes place outdoors whenever possible, and limiting digital device time to less than one hour per day are some of the physical activity standards in the HEPA standards. To view a full listing of the HEPA standards, please refer to this table.

If you would like to pledge to commit to health, please click this link. If your department decides to take the pledge, it is committing to:

  • Implement 19 HEPA standards at your park and recreation site over a five-year period.

  • Complete the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School time inventory annually.

  • Submit documentation, if requested to verify implementation of HEPA standards.

Additionally, NRPA has put together a webpage of resources to assist in maintaining the HEPA standards. I hope that this blog has inspired you to take the commit to health pledge. If your department is interested in taking the pledge, I would love to hear about it! Please contact me at to share!

Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Happy Valentine's Day

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 13, 2017
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s day usually goes hand-in-hand with chocolates and other unhealthy foods. Whether you are exchanging candy with a loved one or eating a high-calorie romantic meal, it can be hard to stay healthy on the big day. This wellness blog will give you and your department some ways to promote healthy Valentine’s Day behaviors in your community.

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers are expected to spend an estimated $1.7 billion on candy this Valentine’s Day. This equates to almost 50% of all American consumers.

In an article found on, Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest day for restaurants in America. Couples indulge on many different international food options, with Italian and French restaurants gaining the most interest. The article also pointed out that this spike in restaurant orders isn’t just limited to couples. Individuals who are single are more likely to order indulgent food such as fries, wings, and pizza on food ordering websites such as GrubHub.

I’ll be the first to admit that my Valentine’s Day plans include a bit of candy and a trip to the local Italian restaurant. However, it’s important to partake in everything in moderation and make smart choices. Instead of the giant candy heart box, try a smaller version to express your love.

Your department may be holding a Valentine’s Day event at some point this week. In after-school programs, the day is likely to be celebrated. Instead of focusing solely on Valentine’s Day Candy, try to include other Valentine’s Day activities such as crafts. The children in your program then give these Valentine’s Day crafts to their loved ones. Activity sheets such as this one are great to help children celebrate Valentine’s Day while learning a bit about their health.

Another idea to promote a healthy Valentine’s Day in your community is to encourage couples to take advantage of your department’s parks. Encourage couples to take a romantic walk on a trail or park. Pick the suggested trail or park strategically - think about facilities that have a great view of the sunset, field of romantic winter flowers, or just a beautiful view. Once you have a facility in mind, advertise it through flyers, social media, and other mediums to attract couples to come out. This could be a great way to get people active in your parks, while still celebrating the romantic day.

Additionally, if your department holds any cooking courses, a special couples cooking class sometime around Valentine’s Day could garner a lot of interest! Couples could be taught how to cook an affordable, healthy, and romantic dinner at home instead of going out to eat for the night.

Valentine’s Day serves as a great day to remember that February is Healthy Heart Month. Last week, the wellness blog covered Health Heart Month extensively, but Valentine’s Day really drives home the point of loving your heart. This is a great time to promote and implement programs regarding heart health in your community.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ways to promote a healthy Valentine’s Day in your community. If your department has any health related Valentine’s Day programs, I’d love to find out more. Contact me at with any information! Have a safe and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Until next time,


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February is American Heart Month!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 6, 2017

If you did not know, February is American Heart Month. This wellness blog will give your department some statistics regarding the prevalence of heart disease in our communities, as well as some program ideas to help combat the problem.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death from American men and women - with 1 in 4 deaths each year being attributed to it. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 735,000 people each year suffer a heart attack.

Heart disease is commonly known to be associated with a variety of risk factors, including stress, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, and poor diet. Although there are additional risk factors such as family history and heart valve issues, the majority of these factors are controllable by individual lifestyle changes. This is where your department can make a huge difference.

One strategy to prevent heart disease, as recommended by the CDC, is to maintain a healthy physical activity level. The surgeon general recommends two hours and thirty minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity for adults.

Maintaining a healthy diet is also an effective strategy in preventing heart disease. The CDC suggests limiting sodium and sugar in your diet and increasing the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. For ideas regarding creating healthy eating programs in your community, please check out our November Wellness Webinar.

All of our recreation and park departments offer many opportunities for adults to get out and get active. Although it may seem like common sense that physical activity can help to prevent heart disease, some individuals may need an extra push to get started. Spread the word in your community that your facilities and programs can help in the fight against heart disease!  

One way to spread the word in your community is to post flyers around your facilities detailing the issue of heart health. Make sure to include recommendations to improve heart health, including physical activity and the programs/facilities you offer to achieve this.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services created a Toolkit to help raise awareness about American Heart Month. It contains great resources to share with your respective communities, including sample social media tweets, infographics to share in community spaces, and ideas to get your workplace involved.

Your department could also suggest specific programs targeted towards improving heart health. Existing physical activity and healthy eating programs could be advertised with an emphasis on the heart healthy aspects they provide. In program guides, a simple “heart” icon can be placed next to said programs to allow them to be easily accessible.

A number of departments offer their staff the opportunity to become CPR and AED certified. If your department does not offer this training (or hasn’t in some time), American Heart Month is a great time to consider. The skills taught in a training course like this could help save someone’s life. To find your local American Red Cross, as well as instructors in your area, please click this link.

I hope that this wellness blog post has gotten you thinking about the issue of heart disease in our society. Whether you know it or not, your department likely already offers a program or facility that will help combat against this issue.


Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Wellness Update

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Thursday, February 2, 2017


Here is a quick review of our wellness content from January:

The new month started with a wellness initiative review of 2016. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolled around, and we discussed ways that volunteerism is good for community health. Additionally, the wellness blog covered two topics regarding starting a park prescription program: needs assessment & implementation and evaluation. Finally, guest blogger Dr. Marissa Tomasic joined us to discuss the role that parks and recreation professionals have on health initiatives.

Our January Wellness Webinar was a great one. Chamreece Diggs and Jason McCray of High Point Parks and Recreation joined us to discuss their Kosmic Dodgeball program. Click this link to check it out!

I hope that you have enjoyed the content of the NCRPA Wellness Initiative thus far!  If you would like to contribute to any wellness content in the future, we are always looking to showcase new voices. Feel free to email me at with any inquiries.


Until next time,


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