This past year I had the privilege of receiving one of the NRPA Young Professional Fellowships presented at the 2016 NRPA Annual Conference. Receiving this fellowship proved to be one of the highlights of my career and the opportunity it provided to experience the NRPA conference, network, and learn is something invaluable and I will be forever grateful for and proud of.
With this experience in mind, I encourage anyone who is considering taking the leap and applying to do so immediately. Whether it’s for one of the fellowships or a scholarship, the experience and networking opportunities will prove to be invaluable as you navigate your career as a park and recreation professional.
The number one thing I took away from this past year’s conference is that we are all in this together despite our geographical differences. Whether your focus is urban or rural, parks or community centers, playgrounds or pools, the challenges we face cross operational areas and regions.
Having the opportunity to attend the conference and be recognized for the hard work you do and to meet other professionals who want to learn, share and grow together makes it one of the best events a young professional can experience. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that while the sessions were great and impactful, I learned just as much from the conversations I had outside of the conference hours.
A highlight for me was discussing with a professional from another urban area how his program added value to the adult leagues in his community. The information he gave was outstanding and I am happy to say I came back and shared it with others in my department who agreed we should explore a similar approach. Additionally, randomly bumping into the leadership team from a park and recreation department who I had referenced in my Master’s thesis was just as surprising and fun as well!
Another positive thing about NRPA is once you attend the conference all of the tools are in place to allow you to keep the conversations going once the week is over. NRPA Connect is a positive resource for continuing to ask questions and get feedback — enhanced by the fact that you will now recognize who is responding to you. In addition to this, networks like the Young Professionals Network are active on social media and monthly conference calls and the network allows for first time attendee’s to jump right in and be a part of everything as committee members and leads.
We do so much for others in our line of work that I highly encourage you to take a moment and do something for yourself. Trust me when I say, you won’t regret it.
NRPA’s Fellowship and Scholarship applications are due April 7.
Anthony Iracki, CPRP, is a Recreation Supervisor at Milwaukee Public School Department of Recreation and Community Services.