The NRPA Young Professional Network continues with their professional development series of blog and vlog (video blog) posts. Jay Tryon, CPRP, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, writes this blog post sharing how volunteering at NRPA’s Congress and Exposition had a positive impact on his career and how it can do the same for you too.
Volunteerism is a word we often use in the park and recreation field. Sometimes we use it for youth sports coaches, other times to help build a playground or clean up a park. In 2011, I used volunteering in a way that has changed my career in so many ways.
When I learned that the NRPA Congress and Exposition was going to be in Atlanta GA, a mere four hours from home, I had to figure out a way to attend. Congress is an annual event that always has the reputation to be an amazing experience for anybody in the field. After doing a little research I learned of the volunteering needs of NRPA. The needs varied from room hosts, greeters at the general session, registration staff, and even “flying squad” members. Before I knew it I was approved within the department for travel and registered to attend.
Volunteers at NRPA's Congress and Exposition help others in many ways, but did you know that by being a volunteer it can help your career too?
What happened next was an experience that has driven me to attempt to never miss an NRPA Congress again.
The majority of my volunteer hours were completed by serving as a room host. It was my responsibility to attend educational sessions, greet members, stamp CEU tickets, pass out evaluation forms and occasionally introduce the speaker. During this time, I was able to choose the sessions I wanted to attend. Therefore, I was able to benefit just as every other person attending the session. NRPA does an amazing job of getting very impactful and relevant education sessions. During my time as a volunteer, I attended sessions that opened my eyes to new concepts and styles of business. I was even able to have time to discuss the topics further with the instructors and speakers. During this time I was able to discuss department issues with directors and park and recreation professionals from all over the country; in turn, giving me the opportunity to not only improve certain aspects of my position, but also take ideas back to my department.
In between volunteer sessions I spent time in the volunteer room engaging with other professionals. Once again, I found this to be vital to my development as a professional because through these conversations, I was learning about the management system of other departments. Those discussions have led to constant email contact over policies, procedures and programming ideas.
I have since volunteered for Congress the following year in Anaheim, CA and plan to volunteer again this year in Houston, TX. Through volunteering, I have been fortunate to network with other staff from all over the country. I have always felt that the park and recreation field is a large extended family. I have met people over the years that I have kept in touch with and shared programming ideas, special event policies, as well as athletic field reservation regulations.
Volunteering has granted me an opportunity to have a mentor from Arizona, given me a chance to attend Gold Medal festivities, get involved with NRPA committees, and ultimately led me to write this blog.
What types of experiences have shaped you as a professional in parks and recreation? Have you had a positive experiencing volunteering before? Have you volunteered at NRPA’s Congress before? If so, what did you enjoy about being a volunteer? Leave a comment below or message us on Facebook or tweet us on Twitter @NRPA_News. You can also join the discussion by logging in and connecting with Young Professionals on NRPA Connect.