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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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YPN Blog: Spring 2019

Posted By Meredith Batchelor, Special Events Coordinator, Town of Stallings, Thursday, June 20, 2019

Making a Statement

Everyone wants to make a statement, everyone wants to make a name for themselves. Why is it that we always feel the need to prove ourselves? For me, it came with my age and how I looked. Getting a middle management position right out of college is a fantastic accomplishment for some. I was ecstatic that I had been offered a position as the Recreation Manager for a department. What I soon found out was that no one wanted to listen to a 22-year-old kid right out of college, especially one that looked like she was 16 on a good day and “wasn’t from around these parts.” I faced a lot of challenges when it came to that, no one knew by looking at me that I had graduated from college with a degree in the field and no one knew that I had worked so hard to get to where I was.

Fast forward to today and that still is ringing true. I started as the Special Event Coordinator with the Town of Stallings in July of 2018. This was a brand new position created for the town, so I felt as though even though no one had held the position previously, that I still had some big shoes to fill.  I constantly am pushing myself to work harder so that everything I produce for the department can be the absolute best. I will beat myself up internally if something doesn’t go exactly as planned.

It’s not a bad thing to expect and seek perfection, for some it’s a good goal to set, especially as event planners. By nature, event planners are organized and consistent, hitting everything on a checklist and exceeding expectations is how we feel the job is done. I do know now after bringing new events and ideas to the town that I can step back and know I’ve done a good job. As Parks and Recreation professionals, our priority is the people. Special Events is how I can provide for the people and the community I serve. I make sure to take the time out of the event to talk to families that are there. I want to make sure they’re having a good time and the event is everything that they expected. I’ve also gotten a lot of good ideas as well as vendor contacts from talking with the community members. By doing this, I’m also setting up a relationship and a reputation. By being so young in the field, it’s important to build those relationships to carry on with me throughout my career.

For anyone who is also a young professional, don’t be afraid to step up. Take the challenge, ask questions, and be present! Make sure you’re creating those lasting relationship, who knows who you may be needing to call on years from now.

About the Author

Meredith Batchelor is the Special Events Coordinator for the Town of Stallings Parks and Recreation Department. Meredith received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community and Therapeutic Recreation from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2015 where she concentrated in Community Recreation and Special Events and minored in Political Science. Prior to her time in Stallings, Meredith worked in recreation with the Walt Disney World Resort before becoming the Recreation Manager in Boiling Spring Lakes, NC. She has had a passion for the field since becoming a camp counselor at the age of 16 and loves that she can bring that passion to her position in Stallings.

 Meredith can be contacted at or 704-821-8557.


Tags:  #Ncrecre8  Active Lifestyle  Association  events  Making a Statement  National Recreation and Park Association  NCRPA  networking  NRPA  Organization  parks  Programs  Recreation  Tips  UNCG  young professionals  ypn 

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YPN Blog: Winter 2019

Posted By Chamreece Diggs, Greensboro Parks & Recreation, Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lifestyle vs Labels

As an African American woman I find myself constantly at a cross section of my label and my lifestyle; a place where the imaginary list of things society says I do or do not do defines my likely life experiences. Assessments about who I am or where I will fit-in are sometimes made based on whatever group or label someone puts me in.  These judgements are not excluded to strangers or people whom exist outside of my “label”, but instead encompasses almost everyone. I have spent my lifetime with people outside of my friends and family looking at me strangely when I discuss something that seems to exist beyond my label, like my love for NASCAR for instance. But at the same time, I have had close friends and family give me the same strange look when I talk about wanting to buy a kayak. We have become so conditioned to make decisions about a person’s lifestyle based on what we assume about their label that we limit an opportunity to connect and discover. 

So what does this have to do with parks and recreation? ... A lot. Because social equity and equality are becoming increasingly important, it is necessary for us to explore and discuss some of the more nuanced ways equity and equality present themselves in our work. As parks and recreation professionals we have the benefit of exposure to a wealth of people with an assortment of interest and experiences; through community engagement, networking, programming, facility use, and even as a part of our work group. How we choose to engage with others is shaped in part by conclusions we have drawn about who they are based on a label. It is naive to suggest that we simply not make assumptions about others or ourselves based on labels; it is impossible, we do it every day, all day and without thinking. Rather, a better practice may be to acknowledge that the label exist, then be intentional about how we make decisions and plans based on lifestyle instead. 

To be intentional about focusing on lifestyles, we open to expose and open to explore. Being open to expose means, exposing others to opportunities despite a label. We use feedback from the community to create programs and events that are of interested to them. However, there is value in introducing a community to activities that they may not have considered or that may have been out of reach. This is where equality and equity in parks and recreation is important. An example of this is an outdoor program we offer for teens in high crime, high poverty neighborhoods in Greensboro. Offering a group of 12 to 17 year olds a chance to participate in kayaking, archery, fishing, or camping for the first time creates an environment of access and opportunity. These teens did not know lakes existed in Greensboro or that they were available to them. They did not believed people who looked like them or people who are living in poverty went camping or kayaking. Now, not only do those same teens have an appreciation for the outdoors, they are eager to experience new things.

Being open to explore is more personal and means we are open to exploring the “imaginary list” that may be associated with our labels and finding ways to recreate beyond it. In 2015 I had an opportunity to travel to Italy. As I was preparing for this trip I made a list of all of the things I wanted to do. I knew Mount Vesuvius was in Italy but never considered it to be something I would do. Why, because it was so far from my imaginary list of things I was supposed to do that I could not believe it was accessible to me. When I received my final itinerary for my trip, Mount Vesuvius was on it. On the day I visited Mount Vesuvius I stood at the top and looked over into the volcano, at that moment I thought about what an opportunity I would have missed, had I stuck to my imaginary list. If we as parks and recreation professionals expand our experiences to activities beyond our labels, we are then able to share those experiences with others. If we limit our experience to cultural norms, gender expectations, age limitations and other label “constraints” we are also limiting the experiences of the populations we serve. If I were not open to exploring the outdoors myself, I would not have been open to exposing teens who share my label to the outdoors. 

I challenge each parks and recreation professional who creates and implements programs to be intentional about thinking from a lifestyle first perspective. Acknowledge that a person may belong to a label, but that their label does not define how they choose to recreate. I also suggest diving deep into your own label and exploring how that may shape your experiences. Be deliberate in finding, participating and sharing your experiences in order to enhance how you engage your community.  Discussing how assumptions made based on labels can influence our interactions, is a start to addressing social equity and equality issues in parks and recreation. 

About the Author

Chamreece Diggs is a Facilities Coordinator for Greensboro Park and Recreation. Her experience includes working with special populations, youth, administrative, marketing, project management, recreation centers, and special events. Chamreece prides herself on being create, adaptable, resourceful, and progress driven while working in parks and recreation. She received her Bachelors Degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Recreation Administration and earned Masters of Business Administration from University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Tags:  #NCRecre8  Chamreece Diggs  NCRPA  NRPA  Social Equity  YPN 

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YPN Blog: October

Posted By Andrew Lance, Parks and Recreation Manager, Lexington, Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Town Department, Big Time Marketing

All of us have faced the dilemma, how do I get my stuff out there?  How do I connect with the people in my community? I know I have awesome programs and events, why don’t people come to them?  Awareness in your city or town can be a big problem, especially if you are a smaller department. Budgets can be tight, time is valuable, and the staff just don’t have the resources to effectively run a major marketing campaign, right?  WRONG! As young professionals, we have lived our entire professional career with social media, and understand the power that it has. The best part is, it’s FREE, and all you have to do is take the time to work it.

When I came to Lexington 2 years ago, we had a social media presence, but it was very disjointed - no voice, no vision, and needed help.  People were there, and wanted to hear from us, but we had to make time to engage them. In the past 2 years, we have grown our likes from 1300 to 3000+ in a city of only 17,000 (shameless plug – give us a like!  There is no secret formula, but here are some tips and tricks to help you improve your social media presence.  

  • Take advantage of free stuff.  Need cool photos to use?  Pixabay and Unsplash are two FREE stock photo sites that have high quality pictures.  Want to make professional looking posts? Try Canva, a FREE site that gives you all kinds of social media templates for posts, covers, etc. and more.  Need more ideas? Check out Hubspot for marketing ideas and links.  Go on NRPA Connect and the NCRPA YPN group on Facebook and ask questions of other people in the field, there are tons of free resources out there.

  • Post videos.  Videos will show up more in news feeds these days, so try and post videos when possible.  At an event or program? Go live, and show off the cool things you are doing!

  • Be personal.  This doesn’t mean post as yourself on the department website.  People want to see family and friends, so share photos of participants and people enjoying your programs and events.  Little Johnny playing at camp will have much more engagement than a picture of a flyer for summer camp.

  • Schedule in advance.  Grab a calendar, check out what you have coming up, and then go ahead and schedule your content for the week.  Boom, your Facebook week is done.

  • Use your insights tab.  See when your audience is online, look at the engagement for your post types, and understand what the audience demographics are.  You can then use this information to tailor your content.

  • Promote engagement.  Ask for comments, pictures, gifs, etc.  Interaction help drives your reach, and the more you have, the more people you can reach and impact.  

  • Schedule events.  Have a cool event coming up?  Make an event on Facebook, then share it.  Making an event is so much better than just a post, because it shows up for other people in the “Events you may like” and Happening near you” sections.

  • Show off your facilities!  Parks and rec centers are cool, and sometimes people don’t realize all that your community has to offer.  We did a #FallParkSpotlight, and every Wednesday highlighted a different park, and people told us they were introduced to parks they never knew were there!

  • Share relevant local content.  Cool stuff happening in your community?  Share that on your page. It shows you care, and encourages other people to share your stuff in return (be sure you can/should share things before you do)

This may seem like a lot, so take a few steps at a time.  Start with a plan, and work to integrate different pieces as you feel comfortable.  By no means is this a comprehensive list, I am learning more and tinkering with the page constantly.  The amount of time it takes now to manage our Facebook page is drastically less than what it used to be, but guess what?  The interaction and reach we have is so much better now, and we have seen a tangible impact on registration, awareness, and community sentiment. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it is all about?  

About the Author

Andrew Lance is the Parks and Recreation Manager for the City of Lexington.  Recreation has been his passion since an early age, especially sports, but he realized early on that he would not grow up to be a professional athlete. Instead, he decided to stick with what he loved, and see the enjoyment others get from being active, playing, and learning.  He attended and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Sports Management. After school he worked for private sports facilities in Virginia Beach and Downingtown, PA prior to moving to Lexington. Andrew is married with two young boys, and enjoys following Tottenham Hotspur, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Braves, and the Gamecocks among others, and playing sports whenever he can.  Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn (, Facebook ( or reach him at

Tags:  Andrew Lance  Lexington Parks and Recreation  Marketing  NCRPA  NRPA  Social Media  young professionals 

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YPN Blog: October 2017

Posted By Nicole Miller, PNC Arena / Carolina Hurricanes, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017

Hey everyone! It’s hard to believe that I have worked for NCRPA for over a year. This year seems to have flown by, yet last fall feels like ages ago. I have gotten to work on a variety of projects; each of which has helped me learn and grow in some capacity as a young professional. One of those projects was to increase the activity and visibility of NCRPA’s Young Professional Network.

 NCRPA’s Young Professional Network (YPN) is comprised of young professionals and students from within NCRPA’s membership who want to give back to their communities and the field of parks and recreation while growing professionally; they are the rising leaders of this field. I was thrilled to get to make our YPN even better for them. Part of revamping the YPN was the creation of the YPN Blog in October 2016. The blog is now officially a year old, and I am excited to get to contribute again. This monthly blog discusses topics that affect young professionals, and a different young professional writes the post each month. The blog provides an outlet for future leaders to share their voice and experiences with professionals from across the state and allows them to write about a topic for which they have a passion. As I said before, each project that I’ve worked on at NCRPA has taught me something, and I can wholeheartedly say that the Young Professional Blog is the gift that keeps on giving in that regard – I get to learn something new with each new blog post.

 If you’ve missed any of the blog posts, I highly suggest taking the time to go back and read them. They are interesting and insightful, and, as I said before, full of useful advice and information that can help make you a better professional. You can check out any of the blog posts at the links below, and they are always available on NCRPA’s NC Recre8’er blog.

 October 2016 – Transition from full-time student to full-time employee: Nicole Miller, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association

 November 2016 – Benefits of getting involved with NCRPA as a young professional: Jared Mull, Transylvania County Parks and Recreation

 December 2016 – Navigating generational differences in the workplace: TJ McCourt, Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources

 January 2017 – Taking on leadership roles as a young professional: Katy Keller, Indian Trail Parks and Recreation

 February 2017 – The importance of internships: Vicky Harley, Kernersville Parks and Recreation

 March 2017 – Parks and Recreation-“Leading through Innovation”: Eliza Kiser, Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources

 April 2017 – Embracing public speaking and overcoming nerves: Leanne Pressley, Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks

 May 2017 – Getting involved in your community outside of work: Laura Rice, Henderson County Parks and Recreation

June 2017 – Importance of part-time work in advancing your career: Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association

July 2017 – From Youth Council member to Youth Council Director: Jasia Stevenson, Greensboro Parks and Recreation

August 2017 – Being involved with NCRPA as a student and career development: Jennifer Games, Hickory Parks and Recreation

Even if you think that one of the blogs doesn’t apply to you personally, share it with your peers and team members, so they can benefit from it. As you can see, these blogs are written by a variety of people with diverse of passions, personalities, and interests, but they all have one thing in common: a desire to succeed in and contribute to the field of parks and recreation.

Want to share your passion, experience, or expertise with your peers by writing a YPN Blog post? Reach out to me, and let’s make it happen.

Meet the Author

Nicole joined NCRPA in 2016, relocating from Atlanta, GA. She graduated from Elon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sport and Event Management, with Minors in Business Administration and Psychology. She has previously worked for Graham Recreation and Parks as an Athletics Intern during her time at Elon, and she interned for the Burlington Royals Minor League Baseball team in summer 2015. In her free time, Nicole volunteers with the SPCA of Wake County, is involved with the Triangle Civitan Club, and keeps the local Bruegger’s Bagels in business (one everything bagel and iced coffee please!).

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

Tags:  blog  ncrpa  young professionals  ypn 

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YPN Blog: August 2017

Posted By Jennifer Games, Hickory Parks and Recreation, Thursday, August 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 31, 2017

How NCRPA Helped Shape My Career

Hey Everyone,

I am Jennifer Games, and I work for Hickory Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Programmer and AFAA Certified Group Exercise Instructor. I would like to take the time to express how amazing NCRPA is, and why I am so glad to be a part of an awesome organization. I have been a member of NCRPA since 2012, my freshman year in college. I attended every NCRPA conference I had the opportunity to go to. I made it a point to meet someone new every time I attended a conference. There are so many knowledgeable professionals in Parks and Recreation, and attending conferences is a great way to meet them.

As a student, the conferences were so beneficial to me. I was able to go to sessions I was interested in, as well as learn more about the trends in Parks and Recreation. At each session I was able to learn new things, talk to other students about their experiences, network, and get insight as to how other departments operate. My dad is the Director for Craven County Recreation Department, so recreation became a huge part of my life growing up. I would see how happy my dad was, and I knew then that I wanted to make a positive difference in the community through my own career in Parks and Recreation. With that being said, I am very familiar with how my dad’s department operates, but I was very interested to find out what other departments offered.

I will never forget the NCRPA Joint Conference in Myrtle Beach that I attended during my senior year in college. Tom O’Rourke was the Key Note speaker for the college students. He was so inspirational and taught me so much about becoming a young professional. Tom O’Rourke gave us tools to use when applying for jobs as well as how to differentiate ourselves in a professional manner. As a young professional, these conferences have helped me implement new program ideas as well as provide opportunities for me to talk to other professionals on the programs they offer.

Another great opportunity I took advantage of as a student was being a part of the NCRPA Professional Development Committee. The committee was created to discuss, and design the description for the new Professional Development board position for NCRPA. It was a great experience being a part of a NCRPA Committee. I really felt like I was making a difference. I was able to gain a lot of knowledge and experience I may not have acquired in the classroom. Being on the Professional Development committee also helped me network and gain more experience in team work. 

Overall, I owe a huge thank you to all of the staff members of NCRPA, committee members, session leaders, keynote speakers, and all of the helpful professionals in our field. NCRPA, my professors from East Carolina University, and my parents helped shape me to the young professional I am today. I was very fortunate to be able to get a job in recreation two weeks after graduation. I really feel that if I was not a part of NCRPA it would have been more difficult to find a great job so quickly. My advice to all other young professionals is to take every opportunity to be involved in NCRPA and strive to make a positive difference within your community.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Games works for Hickory Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Programmer and AFAA Certified Group Exercise Instructor. Her father, Eddie Games, is the director of Craven County Parks and Recreation Department, so she grew up with knowledge of recreation. Jennifer attended college at East Carolina University and recently graduated in May of 2016 with a B.S Degree in Parks and Recreation with a concentration in Sports Leadership. She rode on the Equestrian team for ECU, played intramural volleyball, and was involved in the Recreation and Park Management club. She enjoys being outside, riding horses, hiking, playing volleyball, meeting new people, going to the beach, spending time with friends and family, and loves helping people.

Jennifer can be reached at or 828-261-2258.

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

Tags:  involvement  NCRPA  student  young professionals  ypn 

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50 at 50 - June 9

Updated: Thursday, June 8, 2017
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to camp at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Since I was also there in April, this is not a new to me park, but one I highly recommend you visit. There are not many places where you go for a hike and meet wild ponies on the trail.

On my way back through Surry County, I saw a sign for Fisher River Park located in Dobson and hung a right to find it. Without any prior research, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived and was pleasantly surprised. This park was dedicated in 2001 and has a plethora of activities available. As I traveled the road to the park I saw signs directing me to the amphitheater and the 6.5 miles of mountain bike trails. A little further down the road was the practice field and the entrance I took to the park. Here I found several baseball/softball fields, a soccer/multipurpose field, several large picnic shelters which were both being used and even a small picnic table/shelter with a grill. The park also has a walking trail, 2 playgrounds, horseshoe pits and an outdoor basketball court.

What I noticed while rambling around the park, was most everything was sponsored or supported. I chatted with Surry County P&R Director Daniel White to find out more. They have a gift catalog program created a number of years ago and is being revamped to reflect current costs and pricing for naming rights. Over the years, a number of businesses, community groups and families have sponsored items in the park. These donations have helped towards applying for matching grants.

While talking to Daniel, I found out the department has a unique partnership with the Wild Turkey Federation to offer the Women in Outdoors program. This is a female-focused outdoor skills training program. In the past they have taught kayaking and skeet shooting.

A plaque I found on the wall at the concession stand reads, “A special thanks to all Recreation Advisory Committee members past, present and future. Together we can make a difference!”. What an innovative way to recruit future advisory committee members.

The park is 135 acres with some undeveloped acres. The property has been owned by the county since 1870. Its original intent was the “poor farm” - a place where those with no place to live and without jobs could live, work and earn their way towards having those things. The old farm house is still on the property. Fisher River Park was the vision of a county commissioner and advisory board members to create a place for recreational opportunities for Surry County residents and travelers like myself passing through.

For more information on Fisher River Park visit

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  50at50  NCRecre8  NCRPA  parks  Recreation 

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Community Health & Wellness Workshop

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, May 22, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In case you did not know, the NCRPA Wellness Initiative is holding a Community Health & Wellness Workshop on June 8th in Greensboro, NC! The workshop is designed to give you tools to improve the health of your community. This wellness blog will detail the workshop’s sessions and speakers.

The idea for the Community Health & Wellness Workshop stemmed from the NCRPA 2016 Education and Workshops Survey. The survey was distributed to NCRPA members and asked a variety of questions regarding workshops and topics that our members are interested in. In the survey, we asked the question “Would you be interested in attending a wellness event, workshop, or summit?” and the overwhelming majority of respondents selected “yes”. Because of this interest, planning began for a wellness event.

When determining the layout for a wellness event, I began exploring relevant health and wellness topics in North Carolina. This exploration involved analyzing the 2016 NCRPA Park Directors Agency Wellness Assessment, as well as researching current trends in wellness. Through my search, I discovered the elements for our workshop sessions which are included below.

A separate wellness specific survey was sent out to North Carolina Park Directors in 2016. The Park Directors Agency Wellness Assessment found that healthy eating programs were lacking in our departments. To address this shortfalling, we recruited Dr. Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences at North Carolina State University. Dr. Haynes-Maslow, nutrition and public health expert, has put together a session that will “explore how your agency's out-of-school programs can implement Healthy Out of School Time Standards.” Healthy eating objectives are a major part of these standards will be discussed in depth. Additionally, Dr. Haynes-Maslow will discuss how the NC State Cooperative Extension can help in the implementation of these standards.

In researching current trends in recreation for health programs, the concept of park prescriptions was a major topic area. To address this trend, Dr. Jason Bocarro and Dr. Myron Floyd from NC State University, and Sangamithra Krupakar MBBS, MSPH from the Division of Public Health will  present a session entitled “Thinking Outside the Pillbox: Positioning community parks and recreation to grow healthier communities.” This session will “explore how community parks and recreation services can play a much larger role in providing both prevention and treatment, offering an alternative and a more cost effective and efficient preventive medical approach.” Additionally, attendees will be introduced to the research behind park prescription programs and be given ways to implement these practices into their communities.

A common thread in implementing recreation for health programs that I found were partnerships. These partnerships take individuals from different backgrounds with different skill sets and brought them together to create recreation for health programs. The idea of partnership inspired our next session: the Community Health & Wellness expert panel. This panel of recreation and health care providers will help facilitate a roundtable discussion centered around recreation for health. This roundtable discussion will help attendees gain skills to form community partnerships, give attendees resources to help implement health programs, and more! Our panelists include Alice Keene - Special Projects Coordinator from Pitt County Community Schools and Recreation, Jason Urroz - director of Kids in Parks, and Dave Gardner - Worksite Wellness and School Coordinator with the NC Department of Health and Human Services. Each panelist’s track record has demonstrated a passion for community health & wellness and will bring a wealth of knowledge to our group.

Our is taking place on Thursday, June 8th, 2017 at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library in Greensboro, NC. The speakers are extremely engaging and will help you in improving wellness in your community. If you are passionate about positively impacting the health and wellness of members of your community, please register today! We would love to get a big turnout to help create a network of health and wellness advocates in our state. Space for the workshop is limited, so please register today!!

Until next time,


Tags:  healthy eating  Healthy Living  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  workshop 

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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: December 2016

Posted By TJ McCourt, Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, Thursday, December 1, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Everything You Need to Know about Generational Differences in the Workplace (...or Not)

Are you a Millennial?

 If you are like me, you bristle at this label.

But, if you are like me, you were born between 1981 and 1997 and that means—at least according to the criteria adopted by the Pew Research Center—that you are a bona fide, card-carrying member of the Millennial generation.

Of course, you have heard this before. How could you have avoided it?

There have been innumerable articles, op-eds, blog posts, and think-pieces devoted to the apparently inscrutable task of dissecting the Millennial mind. Entire consulting firms are dedicated to the (absurdly lucrative) business of helping employers figure out who we are, what we want, and how to get us to do good work. As a Young Professional yourself, it is likely that you have been recruited as a subject matter expert on the ubiquitous question, “What do Millennials think about ______?”

What do all of those consultants, the litany of expert opinions, and your personal views have in common? They are all essentially useless in determining anything about the individuals they purport to diagnose.

Labels are convenient. Like all theoretical models of reality, they are heuristic: they can help us navigate otherwise dauntingly complex situations, providing a cognitively efficient means of reaching a conclusion without having to go through the trouble of considering all the pesky details of the real world.

Labels are also fallible. When we use heuristics, it is important to keep in mind that we are taking an intellectual short-cut, which means we risk making false assumptions or overlooking subtle truths. Hopefully, it goes without saying that there is a whole host of potential errors and downright insidious results that can follow from making assumptions about individuals based on the class or group to which we assign them.

When it comes to making assumptions about our coworkers, bosses, or employees based on when they were born, the potential consequences are mostly benign. But when we habitually rely on generational labels to tell us something we want to know about somebody else, we risk more than just reaching the wrong conclusion. We risk missing out on the opportunity to get to know somebody as an individual.

The truth is, there is no silver bullet for effectively communicating with a Baby Boomer, or for understanding the motivations of a Gen-X’er, or for managing the emotions of a Millennial.

Some people prefer e-mail, some prefer meeting face-to-face. Some people thrive on collaboration; some work better on their own. Some people can only be persuaded with data, and some will not connect with an idea unless you have a personal anecdote to back it up.

None of these details can be found on a person’s birth certificate.

The sooner we stop relying on generational platitudes to give us quick-fixes and canned answers, the sooner we can get on with the business of actually getting to know each other.

The key to succeeding in an intergenerational workplace cannot be reduced to a pithy list of truisms or a 500-word blog post. Success requires taking the time to get to know the people you work with for who they are, as individuals.

Call it old-fashioned. Call it innovative. Maybe there is not much of a difference between the two, after all.

Meet the Author

TJ McCourt is a planner with the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department. He holds a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Florida as well as an M.A. in Urban Planning from Harvard University. TJ’s professional work involves analyzing the Parks Department’s goals and priorities from a systems perspective—exploring how parks, recreation, and open space fit into a broader context of city planning, community development, public health, and natural resource conservation. Personal fun-facts: TJ is an avid player of pseudo-sports (such as spikeball, pickleball, and goaltimate), regularly relies on the kindness of strangers, and isn’t really a big fan of cake.

TJ can be reached at 919-996-6079 or

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

Tags:  generational differences  Millennials  NCRPA  young professionals 

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The Great Outdoors and the Promotion of Health and Wellbeing

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, November 28, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

By: Marisa M. Tomasic, Ph.D.


The Great Outdoors and the Promotion of Health and Wellbeing


Lovers of the outdoors already know the power of nature in promoting relaxation, harmony, and inner peace.  It really comes as no surprise to most of us that being outside connecting with nature is uplifting and energizing. What you might not realize, however, is that science is backing up what we already know; the great outdoors has the capacity to fix, or at least improve, much of what ails us! Researchers in the areas of emotional health and well being have been investigating the ways in which nature works to lessen stress, reduce anxiety, and promote greater happiness.


Research continues to document the positive role that exercise not only plays in our physical health, but in our mental health and overall wellbeing as well.  Choosing the outdoors as the setting for our physical activity appears to offer some exciting and noteworthy health benefits. According to Prevention (2012), taking our exercise and other daily activities outside is a great way to experience these perks. The article further cites the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology’s (2010) finding that merely participating in five minutes of outdoor physical activity can supercharge our mood. Imagine only having to spend minutes in order to reap quality rewards!


Additionally, Fortune (2015), points to a study conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies which suggested that better physical, mental, and brain health are promoted by vacationing or residing near parks and green areas, which has implications for urban planning and development.  The Harvard Health Letter (2010) shared several top reasons for getting outside and experiencing nature:

  • higher levels of Vitamin D produced from sunlight exposure, which can promote better physical and mental health

  • more movement and physical activity, also associated with improved physical and mental health

  • enhanced mood

  • better focus and concentration

  • speedier recovery from certain surgeries


North Carolinians, as well as visitors and vacationers to our extraordinary state are fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful state and numerous state and national parks.  There’s plenty of time left this year to get out, get moving, and take in the splendor and health benefits of what our park system has to offer.  Perhaps the arrival of the coming new year will inspire us to connect with the outdoors and be our healthiest selves!


Meet the Author

Marisa McMillian Tomasic, Ph.D., was born and raised in Mount Airy, North  Carolina, and is currently a psychologist and freelance writer in Pittsburgh,  Pennsylvania.  She is the mother of two and loves the beach, the Carolina  Tar Heels, and spending time with  family.  


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

Tags:  guest blog  ncrpa  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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YPN Blog: November 2016

Posted By Jared Mull, Transylvania County Parks and Recreation, Thursday, November 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2016

Hello, Young Professionals!

My name is Jared Mull, and I am a Recreation Manager with Transylvania County. I am the guest blogger for the November installment of the Young Professionals Blog. My post will discuss getting involved with the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA).

NCRPA has been a part of my life since I entered the parks and recreation field full-time in 2010.  I was fortunate to begin my work with the City of Kannapolis, which had leadership that believed in the value of NCRPA and being involved as much as possible.  I talk about me being fortunate because finding a department that believes in professional development and NCRPA will help make gaining their support of you being involved with the Association much easier.

Why Be Involved?

1.  You get to learn and network with the best.  Take a look at who is on the board and who holds different leadership roles within NCRPA, and you’ll quickly see that these are typically executive management professionals with a genuine passion for what they do.  They are the best at what they do and getting to spend time working with them will only make you better.

2.  Let’s be honest…your resume likely looks like every other young professional's resume.  You have a Bachelor’s degree, possibly a Master’s degree, an internship, and you’re likely just starting your first full-time job.  What are you doing that will separate you from other young professionals that may apply for the next job that you want?  Adding NCRPA volunteer experience to your resume and holding different leadership positions will not only enhance your resume but will give you an edge over your peers.  NCRPA allows you to take on leadership roles that you likely aren’t getting with your current job if you are not yet at a supervisor level.

How to Be Involved

There are several ways to get involved with NCRPA.  I started out just attending region meetings and other NCRPA functions, so I could get a feel for what it is all about and see if it was something that I was interested in.  I’ll definitely forget some ways to be involved, but below are some ideas for young professionals that are looking to get their feet wet with NCRPA:

  • Present at a state conference.  I realize that for some of you this may take you out of your comfort zone, but you get to speak on an area of parks and recreation that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.  I presented on fantasy football impacting parks and recreation back in 2012, and I didn’t get booted off the stage so you have nothing to worry about!
  • Be a room host at state conference. 
  • Join NRPA and NCRPA Young Professional Network.  If it is something that you enjoy, try to then take a leadership position within the network.
  • Volunteer and nominate yourself to be on a NCRPA committee.
  • Region involvement.  I’m a big proponent of work that can be done within your geographic region.  Strive to be an active member in the region through attending meetings, networking events, and improving communication.
  • Contact NCRPA.  Let Michelle, Matt, and Wanda know some of your interests and time availability, and they will likely have some type of way for you to be involved.

Ultimately, you are the only one that chooses your personal and professional goals for your career.  If you are looking for ways to grow as a young professional and separate yourself from your peers, I can think of no better way to do so than to start getting involved with NCRPA.

 Meet the Author

Jared Mull is a Recreation Manager with Transylvania County Parks and Recreation. Jared was born and raised in Brevard, NC and received his B.S. degree in Recreation from Southern Wesleyan University and M.S. degree in Recreation Management from High Point University. Jared has previously worked for the City of Kannapolis and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in various roles. Jared is responsible for the management of the recreation division including budget, athletics, special events, recreation programs, contracted instructors, and strategic planning. Some of Jared’s favorite things are: Food – Mexican, Hobby - Fantasy football and lifting weights, and spending time with his wife Jennifer and two boxers Max & Molly.

 Jared can be reached at 828-884-3156 or

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

Tags:  involvement  NCRPA  young professionals 

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Being Healthy at the NC State Fair!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday, October 17th


It’s finally State Fair time! If you did not know, the North Carolina State fair opened up in Raleigh on October 13th. The fair is a glorious display of everything North Carolina has to offer, and people from around the whole state come to the capital to partake in the festivities. A very unique cuisine can be found at the fair, including everything you can possibly imagine deep fried. This got me thinking about the wellness initiative, and how your program field trips to the fair, local carnivals, or amusement parks can encourage your communities to stay healthy.

One way to avoid overeating at a fair is to eat before you go. This prevents fairgoers from arriving with an empty stomach and huge appetite. I would suggest eating something healthy and filling before entering the fair, so that the not so healthy fair options aren’t as tempting.

Grazing on a variety of foods rather than eating the whole portion can also be useful tactic for fair eating. The Wisconsin State Fair holds a “Crazy Grazin’ Day” where they offer smaller portions of food for less money. Although our NC State Fair doesn’t hold a grazing day, you can take this idea and apply it to your own fair experience. Instead of eating the entire funnel cake, share it with your group! If your department holds a festival with food, this could be a good idea to implement.This not only allows you to eat less, but it affords the opportunity to try a variety of different foods.

There are also a variety of State Fair foods that are delicious and not as bad for you. Try replacing some of the unhealthy fair foods with healthier ones. Evergreen Health wrote a great article outlining some of these food swaps, and I thought I would share some of them with you.


“Unhealthy Food”

“Healthier Substitute”

Funnel Cake

Caramel Apple

Turkey Leg

Chicken or Steak Kabobs

Bloomin’ Onion

Roasted Corn on the Cob

Fried Snickers Bar

Saltwater Taffy

Ice Cream Sundae

Frozen Chocolate Banana


Another way to stay healthy at the fair is to increase your walking throughout the day. Try parking further away and walking into the fair. Although it may not seem like a lot, the extra walking can help burn calories. Parking further away can also save the stress on your wallet, as cheaper and even free parking options require you to walk. Walking will also be achieved inside of the fair grounds. Take a few laps around the fair before deciding which activities to do. This tactic will allow you to stake out the can’t miss activities and vendor locations, while also adding valuable steps to your trip.

Personally, my all-time favorite fair food are deep fried oreos. I know that I can only have this food at most once a year at the State fair, so I afford myself the chance. This brings me to my next tip: think about the food you want to try ahead of time. According to a WebMD article , the number one problem with fair food is mindless eating. If you must have unhealthy food at the fair, thinking about it ahead of time and zeroing in on it can help avoid this mindless eating. This will allow you to think strategically about your food choices, and cut out the unnecessary calories.

I hope that these tactics can help you and your programs at the state fair, local fairs and festivals, and amusement parks. If you are heading to Raleigh for the fair this year, I wish you luck and the willpower to make healthy choices!

Until next time,


Tags:  CRPA Wellness  ellness  ellness bulletin  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  wellness  Wellness bulletin 

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Wellness Update!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Thursday, October 13, 2016
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2016

Here is a quick review of the wellness coverage from August and September:


In August, the NCRPA Wellness blog covered the wellness benefits of Pokemon Go. The Pokemon Go coverage continued with our September Wellness Webinar: Get Going with Pokemon Go!

September also covered a wide range of other topics. First, we discussed September being “Better Breakfast Month”, and the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.  Next, we covered the idea of using fresh produce in concession stands. The blog finished up the month with two fitness topics: Fall fitness and online fitness.


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,



Tags:  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  Wellness 

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Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, October 10, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Recently, I attended the Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina quarterly meeting in Raleigh. Eat Smart Move More North Carolina (ESMMNC) is a statewide movement that promotes increased opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity wherever people live, learn, earn, play, and pray. I learned a lot of valuable information at this meeting, and thought I would share some of it with you.

The meeting’s main topic of discussion was the North Carolina Plan to Address Obesity: Healthy Communities 2013-2020. According to the ESMMNC Obesity Prevention Plan In North Carolina, “more than two out of three adults, and 30% of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. The report goes on to state that overweight and obese individuals are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancers.”

It is the belief of ESMMNC that in order to combat against this issue, individuals from different disciplines should engage in the Community Coalition Action Theory. This theory requires a collaborative effort and commitment from agencies in different disciplines within a community. Participating agencies pool their resources and knowledge together in order to work towards a common goal.

ESMMNC has identified six core behaviors to address overweight and obesity in North Carolina:

  1. Increase Physical Activity.

  2. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.

  3. Decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

  4. Reduce consumption of energy dense foods.

  5. Decrease television viewing and screen time.

  6. Increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity..

It is important to note that ESMMNC does not consider these behaviors to be a “magic bullet” which fixes the problem overnight, but rather evidence based solutions to gradually reduce overweight and obesity.

In order to encourage the adoption of these six core behaviors, ESMMNC is looking for agencies and individuals to participate in a few key strategies. They have categorized these strategies by setting including: individual & family level, childcare level, college and university level, work site level, local government level, and more. You can find all of these strategies in their entirety in the  ESMMNC Obesity Prevention Plan, but I thought that I would share some with you now:

  • Individual Level: Reduce Screen Time

  • Family Level: Support the efforts of family members striving to be healthy.

  • Childcare Level: Implement policies that ensure the amount of time toddlers and preschoolers spend sitting or standing still is minimized.

  • College Level: Provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to volunteer with community coalitions that address obesity.

  • Work Site Level: Use point-of-decision prompts to encourage the use of stairs, drinking water, and eating healthy.

  • Local Government Level: Promote joint use/community use of facilities

Hopefully, your department can continue to adopt these tactics in order to help combat against this issue. If you are interested in learning more about ESMMNC, please visit their website. There are a lot of great resources that would be very useful to parks and recreation professionals like yourself.

ESMMNC is also looking for more team members. If you are interested in joining this free organization, please visit this link. I think that it would be great to have our departments on board!

Until next time,


Tags:  ncrpa  NCRPA Wellness  wellness  Wellness bulletin 

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June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month!

Posted By Matthew Carusona, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer is here and the weather is warmer, especially this past weekend. Thankfully you can grab a fresh slice of orange or watermelon to cool you down! June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and this week’s blog will highlight a few resources to get more fruits and vegetable on your plate whether it be at home or at work as part of your programs!

Buy in Season, Buy Local: Have you ever wondered, what’s in season? Well the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services makes it easy with their NC Produce Availability Chart. This chart can be used for finding the freshest and best tasting produce available. Buying your produce at a local farmer’s market, or grocery store that sources locally further ensures your produce is fresh; better yet, see if you can buy direct from a local grower. Additionally extra fruit and vegetables can be frozen and used later for anything from smoothies to fruit desserts.

Grow a Garden: Teaching citizens about healthy eating is important, but they cannot put that knowledge into practice if they do not have access to healthy food outside of class. Community gardens are a fantastic way to promote healthy eating. They can help teach people where their food comes from, and give them a chance to connect with their neighbors. Gardens can be small or large, but even a small garden can have a large impact on the health of your community. Check out our Community Garden Page in the wellness toolkit for more info.

Set Healthy Snack Guidelines: Parks and recreation agencies provide a lot of programming for children. Often that programming involves food, which can often be unhealthy. Providing fresh produce can be a great way to keep things healthy and expose participants to different fresh fruits and vegetables. Our wellness toolkit has some great guidelines and resources for increasing healthy snacks and food in sports, camp, afterschool, and other programs. Check out our Healthy Snack Guideline Page in the wellness toolkit for more info.

Quick Ideas: While large-scale projects are great, don't be discouraged if you don't have the resources to tackle a large project right away. Here are some easy things you can do to promote fresh fruits and vegetables along with wellness in your agency right now!

  • Healthy snack day at community center (provide fresh fruit and vegetables to each participant, or work with a local vendor to have a fresh fruit and vegetables food week)
  • Short health lesson with a healthy snack, consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables in after-school programs.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables at staff meetings.
  • Fruit Fridays! Bring a different fruit to staff one Friday each month for a snack. Include a healthy recipe if you wish.
  • Pick up veggies from the farmer’s market (or harvest them from your garden) to share with staff.
You can also check out our webinar: 10 Ways to Improve Wellness in Your Department Now!

Tags:  Community Gardens  Health  Health and Wellness  Health Eating  Healthy Cooking  healthy eating  Healthy Foods  Healthy Lifestyle  Healthy Living  Healthy Snacks  Healthy Snacks Program  Live Healthy  Local Vendors  ncrpa  Recreation  Snack Nation  Wellness  Wellness bulletin 

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