Embracing Opportunities for Growth

By Tiffany Johnson, Ph.D., CPRP | Posted on April 26, 2024

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I am Dr. Tiffany Johnson, the deputy director of aging and disability services for the City of Seattle and King County, Washington. You might be wondering why I am contributing to this Volunteer Week communication. First and foremost, I must honor and acknowledge what my NRPA volunteer opportunities have been to my life and my career. I attended my first NRPA Annual Conference in 2006 when Seattle hosted it and, ironically, I moved to Seattle ten years later to work for Seattle Parks and Recreation. Prior to that, I worked for the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation where I learned of volunteer opportunities with NRPA. I was encouraged by mentors whom I met at my first conference to get engaged and active. I listened to them and joined the NRPA Awards and Scholarship Committee, on which I served as a volunteer for three years. The NRPA awards program consists of the National Gold Medal Award — presented by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with NRPA — and the NRPA awards, which include the Innovation Awards, Spotlight Awards, scholarships and fellowships, and the Robert W. Crawford Hall of Fame. NRPA award recipients are selected by the NRPA Awards and Scholarship Committee, except for the NRPA Best in Innovation Award, for which the recipient is determined by public vote. Each award has specific eligibility criteria. All applicants must be current NRPA members.

A few years later I became a member of NRPA’s Conference Program Committee, on which I served for eight years. The Conference Program Committee recruits and selects the best, most relevant education sessions to serve their peers and support NRPA’s Three Pillars — Health and Wellness, Equity, and Conservation. Proudly representing agencies from across the country and working in a variety of capacities within parks and recreation, this team determines which topics would be of most value to their colleagues, seeking top speakers in the field and vetting hundreds of session proposal applications.

My last volunteer role with NRPA was serving as a commissioner for CAPRA. According to NRPA:

NRPA’s Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) delivers quality assurance and improvement to accredited park and recreation departments throughout the United States. This operational management system improves their infrastructures; increases efficiency in all activities; and demonstrates accountability within their communities. Implementation of this system strengthens teamwork among department staff, imbeds all aspects of CAPRA into their department’s internal culture, and establishes a continuous improvement mindset for all department activities.

CAPRA is the only national accreditation of park and recreation departments and is a valuable measure of a department’s overall quality of operation, management, and service to the community. Achieving CAPRA accreditation is the best way to demonstrate that your department and your staff provide your community with the highest level of service.

The time that I spent on these teams was and has held some of the greatest moments of my life. My networks became stronger, and I learned more about both organizational leadership and social equity. I built a network of professionals nationwide made up of people who have had different experiences. We have bonded in our personal lives tremendously and have been each other’s shoulders of support. Volunteering at NRPA Annual Conferences also has taught each of us best practices and how to tread the waters. Most of my strongest personal relationships have formed because of these experiences. Additionally, I have been able to see and visit places in the United States that I would not have otherwise. I encourage each of you to find a volunteer opportunity to engage in — it will certainly contribute to your network, your bonus family, your growth, your advancement and the growth for your organizations. Go get it and grow your career! Volunteering is worth it. Please don’t forget about the volunteer experiences that can get you to the NRPA Annual Conference as a volunteer or the opportunity to be a board member! All these volunteer opportunities are amazing chances to advance your career and professional growth. 


Tiffany Johnson, Ph.D., CPRP, is Deputy Director of Aging and Disability Services at City of Seattle.