When School Goes In, Seasonal Help Goes Out

When you think about it, parks and rec departments are one of the most prolific providers of work experience for young men and women. It is an opportunity for these fledglings to test their wings in a controlled environment; it gives them chance to learn life skills to which they might not otherwise have exposure.

Even though they may not realize it, they are placed in leadership positions where they have to make judgment decisions that mirror those they will face later in life. It is a big responsibility; being placed in charge of the health and safety of several young children is indeed a serious job.

This fact can sometimes lead to situations where mistakes are made; lapses of judgment, inappropriate responses to problems, inattention to detail, work proficiency, etc. This is where permanent parks and rec staff members can become mentors, giving young people the benefit of their experience and knowledge.

I have to believe that there have been many times when a young person’s life was changed by the mentorship of a compassionate parks and rec professional who took the time to show the way.

I’ve also experienced uncomfortable situations where disciplinary actions had to be taken, up to and including dismissing a summer hire for cause. This is never pleasant and fortunately is rare.

But even this can be a learning experience for everyone: the person disciplined will hopefully understand and own the reason for the actions and learn from it; his or her peers will hopefully learn from others’ mistakes; for the permanent staff, perhaps a review of operating procedures is in order to ensure the infraction doesn’t happen again.

When considered in a cursory manner, summer programs are fun and frivolous pastimes; however, when examined in a discerning light, summer programs are serious business and summer staff members must be up to the task of overseeing our most precious asset – our children. That is an important job.

So, as summer begins to wane and fall is peeking around the corner, parks and rec professionals will be scaling down the intensity of summer and getting back to the routine pace of the year.

As this happens, I hope parks department leaders are taking the time to celebrate a successful season and recognize the summer staff. Acknowledge a successful and safe summer and the role they have played in it. It doesn’t take much; just set up a session with all the staff present, get a few pizza’s and say thank you.

In addition, as an added bonus, you can recognize them right here! Give them a public, digital pat on the back in PRB, right here, right now! Just add a comment at the end of this blog. hey’ll love seeing their successful efforts immortalized in print.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.

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  5. From Seasonal To Sensational

4 comments on “When School Goes In, Seasonal Help Goes Out

  1. Mike Hemkerm Director City of Hutto Parks & Recreation Department on said:

    Great article Randy! We have a great young staff here in our City who have been busting at the seams with activties all summer long. With a week to go and then a week of clean up/tear down this article comes at a great time. We’re proud of our Hutto Parks & Recreation Department staff: from the maintenance guys that help our facilities look top notch, to our teen volunteers working with summer reading program children at the library and of course our summer camp staff – all of them have been working harder & smarter.

    They all have done a great job and we are proud of what they have accomplished this summer!

  2. Jim S. on said:


    So true. Two of my children turned their summer parks and recreation experiences into significant scholarship dollars when applying for college. My petite 5′ tall daughter by recounting her life-guarding experience in application essays and my son writing about “Glu-stick Diplomacy” while a vacation camp counselor for his essay.

    I just finished working with a high school student in my division over the summer. Such a great experience for everyone that they wanted to continue the unpaid internship through the school year and we did too!

  3. Mike Hemker, Director City of Hutto Parks & Recreation Department on said:

    Gret article Randy! We truly appreciate all of our seasonal staff who kick it just as hard as our year round folks who keep our programs and facilities moving here in Hutto, Texas!

  4. Frank Vattilano on said:

    The staff at the East Goshen Township Youth Recreation Camp is WONDERFUL.
    I have known these kids since they were enrolled in camp- most since first grade. All of them becamame Volunteers and then were chosen as paid staff.
    They are intelligent, dependable, conscientious, loyal, hard working, and most they coming back until they graduate college. Some become teachers who continue spending summer with us. A GREAT situation.
    I am a very lucky Recreation Director

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