Although many park and recreation professionals begin their careers through a recreation-related college program or a part-time job, that’s not always the case. Kenya Bryant, assistant executive director of the Richland County Recreation Commission (RCRC) in Columbia, South Carolina, began his professional pursuits as a nationally recognized up-and-comer in the advertising world. However, after several years of working in that field, he realized that he wanted to put his energy and talents toward supporting his community, so he took a job as public information officer (PIO) for RCRC and began working toward his master’s degree in public administration. Bryant recently wrote a blog entry about his shift and how attaining his Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) certification has augmented his career. We caught up with him to learn more about why changing fields to parks and recreation was the right move for him, how his family has motivated him for success and his favorite game to play with his community.
Parks & Recreation magazine: As you described in your blog post, your career took a major shift in 2009. Tell me more about this transition and your motivations to make the change.
Kenya Bryant: Making a real impact in the community was the most compelling reason for my change in career. I really wanted to work in an environment whose mission was based on making a difference in people’s lives. What is intriguing to me about our field is that we touch so many types of people at different levels of their lives. I know from personal experience the impact recreation can have on a person. I grew up playing sports in several of our parks, which kept me out of trouble and helped to build lasting relationships that I cherish to this day. If it helped me, it can help someone else.
P&R: You have since moved up at your agency and now serve as assistant executive director for RCRC. What is your day-to-day job like, and what are some of your biggest challenges?
Bryant: The simple answer is that I assist our executive director in evaluating and improving existing programs and services, and in initiating new services as required to meet our customers’ needs. Currently, I am heading up the agency’s development of our Comprehensive PROST 10-Year Master Plan, working with Wood+Partners Inc. and PROS Consulting.
Although I don’t consider this a challenge, a primary focus of mine is ensuring that each of our employees, whether seasonal, part-time or full-time, buy in to our mission and feel that they play a significant role in the success of the agency.
P&R: How do you feel your academic and professional background helped prepare you for your current role?
Bryant: In answering this question, I have to first give credit to my parents and the values that they instilled in me as the foundation that helped me to prepare for my current role. Being a communications major and having that professional experience has served me well, because I really focus on the agency’s image and how we are portrayed in the media. From a political sense, my contacts along with our executive director’s, have assisted in building bridges that weren’t there before with elected officials and members of the community who serve as advocates for the agency (especially at budget time). The MPA degree provided a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the public sector and why the public sector is so important to our everyday lives. The CPRP certification has increased my knowledge of the field of parks and recreation. I also wanted to bridge the gap between myself and the staff and show that I am committed to this profession, to the agency and to them.
P&R: What’s your favorite game, sport or activity to play with patrons of your recreation facilities?
Bryant: I first played pickleball during our Senior Games this past year and really enjoyed it.
Bryant and his wife, Sabrenna, are the proud parents of two young sons, Myles and Joshua. In addition to his work and home life, Bryant is also a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and serves on the School Improvement Council at his son’s school.
Danielle Taylor is the Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.