We have all had that once-in-a-lifetime professional development experience that re-energized us, taught us new skills and introduced us to amazing colleagues. Cindi Wight, Superintendent at Rutland Recreation and Parks Department in Vermont, shares how NRPA’s Directors School did just that for her.
May 2009 was a bit of turning point for me in my career as a park and recreation professional. I had just finished a two-year term as president of our state association and was beginning to think “what next.”
I knew that I wanted a degree in parks and recreation as that was my chosen career, but options were pretty limited in a rural state. In fact, the college I had graduated from didn’t even have a related program.
It was at about that time when I began seeing information about the NRPA Directors School. I was the recreation director for our community, but I knew I wanted to lead my own department in the future. I thought attending this program would provide the knowledge I would need to be a department director as well as show my dedication to the profession. I decided to take a chance and apply. I was ecstatic when I learned I had been accepted!
Cindi Wight shares why she says NRPA's Directors School is an incredible experience for professional development
That year our agency budget was tight, but my supervisor allowed me to use some agency funding for this experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to cover the entire cost and I had to foot the difference. The way I looked at it, however, was if I wouldn’t invest in my own future who would?
About one year later, I left Vermont with the feeling of going to college for the first time and not knowing anyone. I pulled into Oglebay with wide eyes – what a beautiful setting! I had my bike in the car and running shoes packed. I knew that I was going to enjoy morning workouts!
Prior to going to Directors School I believed that I was stuck in my current job. I had no opportunity for advancement and yet to leave would mean uprooting my family. Three years later I was still the recreation director but no longer feel stuck.
After attending Directors School, I learned that a “director” didn’t necessarily mean being a department head. There are many leadership positions within the profession and it doesn’t mean you have to be the head of a department to make a difference. I realized that I had opportunities to practice the new knowledge I gained without needing to uproot my family and chase a director’s job. I was in the driver’s seat of making the recreation division stronger and I had unlimited opportunities for growth as recreation director for my community.
At the same time, while I was at Directors School I learned about North Carolina State University’s online Master’s degree program. I applied soon after my first year of Directors School and was accepted. In fact, I had my first graduate class while attending Year 2 of Directors’ School.
As you might be able to tell, I attribute a lot of my professional success and happiness to what I learned and who I met at Directors School. It was an experience unlike any conference I had ever attended. Right from the beginning I was immersed with my class. I met people from all over the United States who were passionate about parks and recreation and who were doing amazing things. These people were not the coasters—they were all dynamic and outstanding leaders and future leaders. It was an intoxicating, incredible experience!
If you have never had the opportunity to go to an NRPA School you need to start saving and go. What will you get out of the experience? You will get out of it what you put into it. Don’t go back to your room at the end of the day. Instead stay out and socialize around the campfire. Raise your hand in class and ask questions. Most importantly, stay connected with your new friends. You will treasure these friendships and professional connections for a lifetime! I know I still stay in regular contact with many of my classmates.
I don’t know how much stronger I can say: Go to Directors School! Once you breathe the Wheeling, West Virginia, air surrounded by passionate colleagues you will never be the same again. You will be inspired and you will continue to do your part in making your corner of the world a better place.
What has been your most intoxicating, energizing or incredible professional development experience? What are some ways you can become “unstuck” in your current position? How do you stay energized as a park and recreation professional? What has been your NRPA School experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Editor’s Note: NRPA’s Directors School includes an application process prior to registration for Year 1. Applications are currently being accepted. Have questions? Email the team!