There are many opportunities for increased inclusivity in the world of parks and recreation, and that’s certainly a focus of 29-year-old educator and activist Sheema Hai. Hai is an adjunct faculty member in the department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism at the Community College of Baltimore County and recently began her own consulting business, advising agencies across the country on how to bring the joy of recreation to the country’s ever-growing Muslim population.
Hai was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and moved to the U.S. at age 5. She attended college at CCBC and Frostburg State University, obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Parks, Recreation and Leisure Facilities Management. “My experience majoring in recreation and parks really expanded my own repertoire of recreation in my personal life, in a very positive way,” Hai says.
As Hai continued her studies, a new world of recreational opportunities began to reveal itself. It wasn’t long before Hai realized she wanted to share that experience with the greater Muslim population. “I am very passionate about the Muslim community,” she says. “I am Muslim, and I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes [about the religion]. I really see myself as that liaison between the Muslim community and the recreation profession.”
Hai started her business — The Next Level: Recreational Services Consulting — about a year ago, and has already spoken to several large agencies about Islam, the Muslim community and ways to extend recreational programming to that population. “Every time I have done this presentation, it’s opened new doors,” Hai says.
Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.