Become an award-winner with Recreation and Leisure Services
Recreation and Leisure Services teaches its students about developing healthy communities and improving overall quality of life through services devoted to wellness and culture. Basically, you're using fun activities to bring people together, and make them happy and healthy. The program has a strong focus on real-world experience and fieldwork, and it's a field with a wide variety of job prospects. Students get a specialized education that blends theory with practical experience, and the recreation industry itself recognizes the program's special status, and the quality of the graduates it produces.
The Bob Secord Award is given away each year to one student studying recreation in Ontario. For the last ten years in a row, our program has managed to snag the award. This year's winner is current Centennial student Brittany Dilworth. Before coming back to school for the Recreation and Leisure program, Brittany worked in several different fields (including firefighting!) but always found herself returning to leisure.
"The main reason I went back to school was because I kept coming back to recreation," she says. "I worked in the field for eight years, mostly in aquatics. I went into an interview for a daytime position, and the person who did my interview was one of the board members for Centennial's program, and he recommended the program for me. My past experience, how much I love working in the field, really pushed me towards it."
Coming back to school
Fortunately, joining Centennial as a mature student was easy for Brittany, since the program's student body was made up of similar learners.
"It was nice, because a lot of other people in the program were in the same boat as me," she says. "I'm not that much older than most of them, I'm close to the average age in the program, so I'm able to keep up with them, and we can relate to the same issues." One of those issues included keeping her job while in school, which the program's teachers helped her do.
"The teachers were really supportive," she says. "I couldn't just leave my work, so they've always been really good about moving school around my work schedule."
"I think it's important just how involved my instructors are," she adds. "They're so involved with us in every aspect, and give us constant updates on jobs, and all these volunteer opportunities, and the fact that they'll meet with us whenever we need to. That's a really important part of why I was able to succeed."
"One of the coolest experiences I've had was when they let me go to the Parks and Recreation Ontario Conference," she says. "I got to go twice last year, and once this year, and I'm going to get to lead the group next time we go. You get to network with so many specialists in the field, there's constant volunteer opportunities that they're giving out. They're always connecting us with employment opportunities."
The Bob Secord Student Leadership Award acknowledges students who've demonstrated leadership skills and positive abilities in the leisure and recreation sector.
"The main point of it is leadership in the field," Brittany says. "You apply yourself, but you need references. I had different people in the field who gave me references for the award itself."
"One advantage I have is that I've worked in basically every department of recreation," she says. "I've done aquatics, camps, and I've tried to hit almost every component that there is. That's one of the main reasons, that and I'm also involved in recreation in my personal life. I compete in swimming competitions, so that's partially why as well."
As a prize, she'll get to attend the next PRO conference for free, where she'll receive her award, but it's the career benefits that have her particularly interested.
Benefits for the Future
"It will definitely benefit my career," Brittany says of her win. "I recently left an interview that mentioned it, and they seemed really impressed by it. I'll put it on my resume, and I'll know that it's seen as a highly regarded award. Everyone in recreation knows Parks and Recreation Ontario, so having that association with my name is amazing thing to have."
"I want to work in the field," she of her plans for the future. "I currently do, and I want to continue taking on all the responsibilities I do now, while moving onto better positions. Program supervisor is the goal." With this award behind her, that goal has just gotten a bit closer.
By Anthony Geremia