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Calling all Certified Park and Recreation Professionals (CPRPs) and Executives (CPREs) — are you looking to learn more about the accreditation process or further develop your leadership within the process for your agency? If you answered “yes” to either question, then consider CAPRA Volunteering.
NRPA is actively recruiting volunteers to serve as CAPRA Review Team (CRT) Members, Leads, Advisors and Agency Mentors. According to NRPA’s CAPRA accreditation manager, Jennifer Schleining, “The CAPRA volunteer program is essential to the success of the CAPRA Accreditation Program. Each individual serving provides their time and invaluable talents supporting agencies as mentors, representing the commission as CRT members, conducting report reviews and site visits (virtual or in person) during the annual visit season, coaching CRT members as a CRT Advisor or providing overall governance for the program as a CAPRA Commissioner or Committee member. We are grateful for each and every one of our volunteers and the important role they play with CAPRA.”
My journey as a CAPRA Volunteer began in 2015 while attending the NRPA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Since then, I have served in several volunteer roles and have completed six accreditation visits — three in person and three virtual. I have served in the role previously known as a “Site Visitor,” now CRT Member, and have worked with an agency as a CAPRA Mentor as they pursued reaccreditation. In 2022, I served as a CAPRA Advisor for a CRT and joined the CAPRA Volunteer Committee.
Serving as a volunteer has been one of the most rewarding and knowledge-building experiences of my career. Getting to know the accreditation standards as a volunteer was also very helpful as I pursued becoming a CPRE, as much of the information covered in the Management of Park and Recreation Agencies, 4th Edition, the textbook used to study for the exam, also provides content references for the 154 accreditation standards.
Roles and Responsibilities
CRT Members work with other team members to review an agency’s self-assessment and make the initial recommendation on whether the agency’s narratives and submitted evidence of compliance meet enough of the standards to move forward to the official site visit and review of the complete self-assessment.
The CRT acts as the eyes and ears of the Commission while conducting the initial and site-visit reviews. They conduct interviews and review all narratives and evidence of compliance, and seek information from the agency, the CRT Advisor, and the Commission to provide further guidance to the applying agency regarding compliance.
Team Leads provide direction and guidance to Review Team Members and serve as the main point of contact with the applying agency throughout the CAPRA review process. Leads ensure the CRT is organized and completes a thorough review of an agency’s self-assessment. They ensure timely and effective communication with the agency director, accreditation lead and staff, and review team members regarding all initial and onsite reviews. The Team Lead manages the logistics for virtual and in-person site visits, including agency and Review Team meetings and development of the final executive field summary report.
CRT Advisors serve as a liaison between the Review Team and the Commission, providing guidance to Review Teams as they complete the initial and site-visit reviews. Advisors are there to answer questions regarding the review of the self-assessment process, assist with reviewing compliance challenges as they arise, and to reach out to the Commission and Accreditation Manager if further guidance is needed to complete the visit and/or summary report. CRT Advisors are expected to be responsive and knowledgeable about the accreditation process, how to interpret the standards compared to the submitted evidence of compliance, and to provide guidance to their assigned Review Team as needed.
CAPRA Mentors provide guidance to an assigned agency as they complete their self-assessment. They may provide guidance on how to interpret the standards, provide recommendations on the appropriate evidence of compliance to include, and provide direction on how to access and use the available resources CAPRA provides for agencies to complete their self-assessment. The mentor role works directly with the applying agency prior to submitting their self-assessment and can serve as a resource during the onsite or virtual site visit.
Commissioners oversee the accreditation process, policies and procedures. They establish and regularly review the CAPRA standards and implement updates as needed. They also provide the formal decisions on whether agencies will be accredited or not.
In addition to the volunteer positions, there also are opportunities to serve on CAPRA Committees.
The Volunteer Committee was developed to support the Commission with volunteer recruitment and management. The committee assists NRPA and the Commission with reviewing volunteer management best practices, developing trainings and updating the volunteer handbook.
The Training Committee is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating trainings that support CAPRA Volunteer positions and agencies applying for accreditation or reaccreditation. Over the past several years, this committee has worked to develop several virtual training options to meet the needs of all involved in the CAPRA application and review process. Its role is to produce and implement trainings in a variety of formats, identify and evaluate trainings and trainers, and to research and develop best practices and standards for delivering training.
To serve as a CAPRA Volunteer, interested professionals must meet the following qualifications:
- Be a current CPRP or CPRE
- Have at least five years of full-time professional experience in the field
- Be able to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations in a calm and supportive manner
- Have completed CAPRA Volunteer training for your specific role within the past two years
- To serve as a Lead, Mentor or Advisor, must demonstrate familiarity with CAPRA and the accreditation process and/or have served at least two years on a CAPRA Review Team
- To serve on a CAPRA Committee, must have prior volunteer service, as well as knowledge and experience with volunteer recruitment and management and/or training development and adult learning
- To serve as a CAPRA Commissioner, must have experience with accreditation; have previous volunteer, board or committee experience; and (usually) hold middle- to upper-level management positions in parks and recreation, local/regional government, or a related industry
CAPRA Review Team Members, Leads and Mentors have a one-year term and can expect to serve approximately 20 hours per year, which includes the initial review of the self-assessment and the final site visit. CAPRA Review Team Advisors who also serve a one-year term may volunteer approximately 10 hours, depending on the needs of the Review Team they are assigned.
Serving on CAPRA Committees or as a Commissioner is a greater time commitment due to recurring meetings, subcommittee and task force work, and assignments throughout the year. Serving on the committees could involve 12 to 36 hours a year. Commissioner positions range between 40 to 50 hours per year.
Serving as a CAPRA Volunteer has been a positive experience for several leaders within the field of parks and recreation.
“In my past role as a Mentor, it was the best feeling to help other agencies reach their goals and potential. When this happens, it is a win for all in their community and for all in the park and recreation industry! In this role, you have an impact that will be observed across the country. As a park and recreation professional, I started my involvement with CAPRA to develop stronger processes within my department and create opportunities for my department to grow especially in technology and diversity, equity and inclusion. It has paid off, as we are always making improvements in these areas.” — Troy Houtman, CPRE; director of park and recreation; City of Wichita, Kansas
“I have served in a few different volunteer roles for CAPRA, including CRT Advisor, Site Visitor (now known as CAPRA Review Team), and a member of the Commission. I firmly believe that CAPRA has not only had a significant impact on my career, but also it has helped me improve the communities I serve. I have also been fortunate to share my CAPRA knowledge with staff that in turn were able to improve procedures within their facilities. Being a CAPRA volunteer has allowed me to get more engaged within our profession and network with people all over the country. The conversations I have been able to have due to volunteering with CAPRA have provided a wealth of knowledge and made me a better professional.” — Jay Tryon, CPRP; superintendent of community recreation; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
“I became a CAPRA volunteer to learn more about the park and recreation industry and build my knowledge and skillset as a park and recreation professional. My agency received accreditation shortly before I became a volunteer, and I wanted to be prepared to aid my agency when it came time for reaccreditation. Being a volunteer provides the opportunity to learn from other agencies that are following best practices. I am a better professional because of my time as a CAPRA Review Team Member and serving on the Volunteer Committee. Serving as a CAPRA volunteer has connected me with some of the best parks professionals around the country as mentors, colleagues and friends.” — Audrey Cooper, CPRP; natural resources coordinator; Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation, Indiana
“I have served as a CAPRA volunteer for over 15 years in all the possible capacities — Visitor, Reviewer, Mentor, Visit Chair, on the Board (including one year as Chair) and have given several presentations around the country talking about the merits of accreditation on behalf of NRPA. The work with CAPRA has been most fulfilling as I have been able to interact with agencies and their staff who invariably cover the whole spectrum of acceptance to accreditation. What I take pride in is the fact that every one of them have finally bought into the value of going through accreditation and went through successfully. I volunteer for several NRPA opportunities to give back to the profession that has been great for and to me. By far the most satisfying has been the work related to CAPRA. I encourage park and recreation professionals at all levels of their career to offer a bit of your time to CAPRA, as you will grow professionally and personally while expanding your network to open up additional doors in the future.” — Seve Ghose, CPRE; consultant/founder; PNRAnalysis.com
Learn more about how to apply. Don’t wait…sign up to be a CAPRA Volunteer today!
Tara Eggleston Stewart, CPRE, AFO, M.S., is the Division Chief for Aquatics and Athletic Facilities for Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Department of Parks and Recreation.