Monday, September 18, 2017

Keys to Empowerment - It's Conference Time!

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect

The Senior Resource Group 2017 conference is upon us.  Thursday, September 21 at the Reston Community Center, a group of recreation professionals whose daily work focuses on serving the older adult population will convene to learn from each other and from experts in the field of aging. We have selected inspiring presenters on a variety of topics that focus on the population we serve.  The result will be that these delegates will go back to their programs and communities with additional skills to advocate for and champion recreational opportunities and options for a demographic that is a significant portion of our national population.

This year’s theme is about career empowerment. We are honored that VRPS President LaTanya Turner, CPRP will join us.  Her platform has been about increasing the connections we make through VRPS members and finding better ways for “telling our stories.”  That’s what we hope to accomplish at the conference as well.  Our goal, as the members of the Senior Resource Group, is to provide you with the best tools, strategies and techniques that will help you tell your story to your customers, co-workers, decision makers and other stakeholders. The table below will give you a quick look at the day’s schedule: 

Introductions & Announcements
Welcome by LaTanya Turner, VRPS President
Session 1
Words Matter:  Harnessing the Power and Energy of Language
Margaret “Marti” Bailey
Session 2
Empowering Through Understanding: Do You Know What Upsets You
Miki Goerdt, LCSW
Keynote Address: 
Raise the Bar:  How to Recruit, Retain and Engage Professionals as Volunteers
Dr. Lynn Reid
Conference Luncheon & Continued Discussion
Please take time to visit our exhibit
Session 3
Building Bridges of Cultural Understanding
Catherine Motivans
Session 4
Mastering Aging:  Help Your Community’s   Seniors Achieve Financial, Physical, and Mental Wellness
Brandy Bauer and Hayoung Kye
Wrap up 

Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead

Monday, August 21, 2017

Own Your Professional Development

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect

A passive approach to professional growth will leave you by the wayside.”  Tom Peters

We all know that doing a good job and meeting your key work expectations is fundamental to succeeding in your position. But if your professional goals include moving into position with more responsibility (and yes, more money) then you are going to have to put in more effort.  Registering for training programs at work is a good start.  It might also mean getting a professional certification. It all depends on the industry in which you work.   

Essentially, professional certifications can give you a competitive edge and complements your professional experience.  It is a way to show your colleagues and hiring managers that you are serious about working with the latest knowledge and tools that are considered gold standards in that particular industry.  Certainly, a college or post graduate degree indicates your mastery of knowledge but in this fast paced society, information changes continuously and if an industry doesn’t keep up it perishes.  So do the professionals who work in it.

However, you want to do your homework before investing the time and expense. Look at the credentials people have in the positions you aspire to attain.  Are they graduate degrees? Do they belong to a professional association? Do they also have professional certifications?  If the answer is yes to any of these, then consider following their lead.

Do you currently have a mentor? A mentor is a professional that inspires you to obtain more education and training to become more. Consider following this recommendation by joining the Virginia Recreation and Park Society and obtaining your Professional Certification (CPRP).   Membership is also a great way to find a mentor.

In the field of Parks and Recreation a certification you will see frequently is called the Certified Parks and Recreation Professional. There are a variety of paths a person can take to qualify for the exam. According the National Parks and Recreation Association website the following criteria qualify a person to take the CPRP exam:

*Have received, or are set to receive, a Bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher from any institution in recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 1 year of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a major other than recreation, park resources, or leisure services, and also have no less than 3 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have an Associate's degree and have 4 years of full-time experience in the field OR

*Have a high school degree or equivalent, and have 5 years of full-time experience in the field. Source:

There are many paths toward certification.  One important aspect to note is that a candidate does need to have field experience or the educational background before they can take the certifying exam.  That aspect alone shows that this type of certification is really about producing mastery in the field.  Mastery in any field is conducive to professional development.

Another feature of the CPRP certification is that in order to maintain that status, a person needs to acquire continuing education units (CEUs). That’s pivotal. Knowledge is not static and good knowledge changes to become more significant.  Therefore, any association with a strong commitment to research and the sharing of evidence based information is worth joining.  If there are post-secondary programs related to the certification, then you are looking at a certification program that is based on research and academic inquiry.  There should also be ample opportunities for professional to obtain those CEUs through industry related conferences

The CPRP exam guide is very detailed and user friendly.  Each area of knowledge is clearly explained with relevant examples.  The first chapter talks about the pivotal role communication plays in the field.  Relationships with customers, constituents and colleagues thrive when the communication is clear, consistent and accurate. This helps bolster support for programs and services that benefit the public.  In-house, good communication fosters team work, professionalism and camaraderie. It also covers other key categories of the CPRP certification process such as finance, human resources, operations, and programming. 

Now how does this relate specifically to working with seniors?  Well, the answer is- to a great extent!  For anyone who attended the 2016 SRG conference in Virginia Beach, there was consensus among the participants that recreation programs for seniors are perceived to be less of a priority than programs for teens or sports leagues.  However, as the keynote speaker Dr. Denise Scruggs reminded us; we need to be the champions for our programs and communicate their vital contributions to the community.  This can be done by producing competent data analysis and then effectively communicating that information to the public, co-workers and ultimately the decision makers within the organization.  When you go to advocate for your senior programs, you will have more success if you present your case within the framework recreation and park professionals will understand.  

Obtaining the designation of a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional shows others in the field that you understand the overall goals of the industry. Empowered professionals take advantage of every opportunity to improve their skills and enhance their knowledge.   Becoming a CPRP will give you the skills to connect senior programs to the parks and recreation field at large, within your jurisdiction and within your own senior or community center.  How does a parks and recreation certification fit within your career plan?  How do you own your professional development?  Let us know.

SRG Board
Karen Brutsche
Janice Myrick
Cheryl Wheeler
Hope Lomax-Jones
June Snead

Monday, July 31, 2017

Take the 2017 Virginia Outdoors Survey

by Janit Llewellyn Allen
Programs Planner
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Every five years in preparation for the development of the Virginia Outdoors Plan, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) conducts an outdoor recreation survey. The 2017 survey is now, for the first time, open to the general public. Please take the onlinesurvey. Please also share the survey link with people that may be interested in taking the survey.

The online survey will close on August 24 at 5 p.m.

The 2017 Virginia Outdoors Survey (VOS) will assess Virginians’ attitudes about outdoor recreation resources and estimate participation in and demand for a variety of recreational activities. Results from the online survey will be compared to those from a juried survey mailed to 14,000 households in Virginia. This information will also enable DCR staff to assess differences in responses from conservation and recreation advocates and the general public for the 2018 Virginia Outdoors Plan.

Data obtained from the VOS will assist planning based on regional and statewide input. The addition of the online survey results will enhance information about Virginia’s outdoor recreation and land conservation interests. 

By taking the online survey, you are assisting DCR and local providers in determining where additional parks, recreational areas, and facilities are needed. Some localities and planning regions may use survey results to prepare both outdoor recreation and comprehensive plans, or they may use the information as a basis for a more detailed local outdoor recreation survey. Survey information will also help us identify ways to improve our state parks system and protect Virginia’s natural and open space resources. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cemeteriescape Photography Contest Captures the Beauty of Cemeteries and Attention of Local Residents

by Victoria S. Jessie
Public Information Specialist II
City of Norfolk Recreation, Parks, & Open Spaces

"Angel" by Bill Niven, Elmwood Cemetery

When people think of intricately carved statues and sculptures, massive marble monuments, towering columns and brilliantly colored stained glass, they most likely visualize seeing these items in the long hallways of a museum. To the surprise of many, seeing these treasures doesn’t require membership to a museum or even tickets; these magnificent sights can be found in your local cemetery. Unfortunately, the art that exists so prominently in cemeteries goes largely unnoticed. Since most traffic in cemeteries occurs during burial services, many people never have the opportunity to appreciate – let alone notice – the wide variety of beauty in cemeteries. The Cemeteriescape Photography Contest and Exhibit has changed that reality.

"Kaleidoscope-1" by Jim Heath, Elmwood Cemetery

Sponsored by the non-profit organization Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation (NSCC), Cemeteriescape invites people to visit local cemeteries in Hampton Roads and embark on a creative survey of cemeteries. Void of many technical and stylistic restrictions, the contest rules allow contestants to enjoy a great deal of freedom of expression. Whether using a cell phone or traditional camera, contestants can snap pictures of anything in the cemetery that they deem worthy of recognition.  Now in its fourth year, the contest continues to draw interest from amateur and professional photographers alike. With nearly 100 entries, this year’s judges were tasked with selecting winners for four winning categories; Best in Show, Second Place, Third Place and Board Choice. The recipient of the first place award – Best in Show – earns the highly coveted prize of $1,000.  Although the official contest ends with the judges’ decisions, Cemeteriescape continues with a large exhibit of all contestants’ entries during the reception.

"Christs's Crucifixion" by Russell Morrison, Cedar Grove Cemetery

The impact of Cemeteriescape goes beyond simply highlighting the beauty of local cemeteries. For many contestants, the contest created a fun and quite unusual opportunity for an outing. For Melody Agnew, the real award was quality time with family. Agnew commented, “At first I was sad I didn’t win, but then I realized that I did because I had a great time with my son taking these pictures!” This type of participation is reminiscent of the way cemeteries were once used. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, cemeteries were not only places of burial, they served as gathering places for extracurricular activities. Unlike in more modern times, destinations for fun and past times were scarce. While the thought of dining in a cemetery would most likely draw ire today, it was very common to see scores of people picnicking in large, picturesque cemeteries such as Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery. For this reason, people frequented cemeteries – sometimes considered outdoor museums – for a host of activities including carriage races, leisurely strolls, reading, knitting and even hunting, when the landscape permitted it. Although such activities are certainly characteristic of a bygone era, today cemeteries coast to coast still provide creative opportunities for leisure. Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Santa Monica, California for example, is a popular movie screening event that has at times, attracted up to 4,000 moviegoers. Likewise, Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. has become such a favorite destination for its pet friendly policies that it has a waiting list for its dedicated dog park program.

"Beneath the Snow I Sleep" by Susie Coplon, Elmwood Cemetery

The Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries, a division of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Open Space, wants to see a resurgence of similar non-invasive activities. The division continuously identifies ways to increase public interest in non-burial related activities in Norfolk’s eight municipal cemeteries, which are considered to be open space.   The Bureau of Cemeteries meets this objective by supporting a variety of NSCC’s special events such as Cemeteriescape, volunteer workdays, walking tours, as well as holiday memorial services through its public-private partnership with the non-profit. Though these special events have many exciting elements that attract participation, their foremost purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, education and advocacy for Norfolk’s cemeteries. With six of its eight cemeteries established before 1900, the City of Norfolk is dedicated to preserving both the memories of the people of Norfolk and the rich history of the city. For more information on how you can contribute to preserving Norfolk’s cemeteries, visit  Information on Norfolk’s historic cemeteries, can be found here

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SRG: Talking About Ageism in the Swamp of Public Thinking

Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation

“Words once they are printed, have a life of their own” – Carol Burnett

The conversations about aging are changing.  AARP has a campaign called Disrupt Aging which champions personal choice and owning yourself no matter what decade you were born in.  Dr. Ayn Welleford’s #DisruptAgeism hones in on the way negative ways society describes aging, whether in conversation, writing or advertising.  It seemed time to bring the conversation to the senior center where I work.  Engaging with participants about how older Americans can be agents of change regarding the negative perceptions that surround getting older would be a great start.

I enlisted a presenter.  I wrote the description for the discussion and submitted it for publication.  We were going to talk, learn from each other and affirm our changing demographics.  People were living longer and that was a good thing. I was looking forward to being part of a meaningful discussion. Here is a description of the program:

Talking to Your Family About Ageism
Ageism is one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination.  One look at the cosmetic aisle in any drugstore will confirm that.  How your family perceives you as you progress through life will determine how and where you live as well as other choices.  Take part in this discussion led by (name left out) to help you and help your loved ones.

The write-up produced a reaction I did not expect. An irate call came shortly after the program guide starting arriving in the mail. A citizen read my write-up and came to the conclusion that I was supportive of ageism.  This person called the place where the presenter worked, the Senior Center and gave everyone (including my supervisor) who happened to be on the other end of the phone the “what for”.  The situation was made worse because I was out of town and never got a chance to speak to this individual.  I did get a blow by blow account (from more than one person) of the interaction. It was torturous.  This is crazy, I thought.  I carefully crafted this write-up. But, in the end, my message backfired. What happened?

Well, there were many things I didn’t include in the write up. The Frameworks Institute, a non-profit that looks at how communication relates to how social policies are discussed, developed a tool-kit to talk about aging.  They compare public thinking to a swamp because something can come out of nowhere and attack you unless you learn to anticipate how your message may be perceived.  Yup.

They noted that there are huge differences between what professionals think and what the public thinks.  Without the proper frame, phrases or words can trigger negative responses.  So my first sentence should have defined ageism and offered an immediate solution.  There were so many things I could have done differently.   

This most recent experience has made me think about how those of us who work with the 55 plus population trek through the swamp of public thinking every day.  Our purpose in the recreation field is to create different programs that will engage and encourage regular participation in a demographic that is at risk for social isolation.  The challenge is that we interact with an incredibly diverse population in terms of age difference, education, experiences and cultures.  While I am sure we all agree that you can’t please everyone it’s important to make sure everyone at the very least feels included.

How do you navigate the swamp of public thinking?