As park and recreation professionals, we are always striving to help our agencies stand out. We design new activities with the hope they’ll grab our patrons’ attention, and we vie for the public’s time, funds and trust among countless other available options. We know our work is fruitful and serves the physical, emotional and mental well-being of our community. In short, we show the public a variety of fun ways to get and stay healthy, as well as how to build strong, resilient communities.
The Johnson County Park & Recreation District in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, where I’m the sports and facilities south manager, has an amazing staff, evidenced by the fact that, in 2017, our agency received the NRPA Class I Gold Medal Award. On this team of high-performing individuals, standing out as an individual can be somewhat of a challenge.
So, how can park and recreation professionals continue to grow professionally and stand out as individuals? By becoming a Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE). While I’m very happy with my position in the organization, I desire to develop and further my career. Meeting the criteria and the successful completion of the CPRE exam announces to those making hiring and promotional decisions that you have the aptitude and experience and are not afraid of a challenge.
When I passed the CPRE exam in 2017, I was ecstatic to learn that I was only the fourth person in the state to have done so. It took me the better part of a year to prepare for the test. The thick study guide delves into the various aspects of parks and recreation — even the less-than-exciting ones — and the test is challenging. This is not your college 101 “skim through the book and you’ll be OK” test. You must study, especially those items with which you have had little experience. If you can wake up at 2:30 a.m. and set out cones for a triathlon or can explain to an angry patron why there are snakes in parks, you can do this.
Shannon Sonnier, CPRE, is the Sports and Facilities South Manager for Johnson County Park & Recreation District.