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How an award-winning Recreation and Leisure student went to work on play

picture of Centennial College Recreation and Leisure Services program graduate Ian Campbell

Building a better community happens when people are healthy and active. That's what Recreation and Leisure Services is about: Keeping the community happy and active. Recreation and Leisure services is one of Centennial College's longest-running programs, enduring for nearly 50 years, thanks to it being constantly updated to stay relevant. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is a strong emphasis on practical skills and fieldwork, getting you out of the classroom and into the communities you'll be serving. Over the years, we've produced a number of notable graduates, and a soon-to-be rising star is Ian Campbell, who's managed to win both the Bob Secord Student Leadership Award, and the Jonathon and Sarah Mitchell Award in his time with us. He's currently in his final semester, doing a field placement working in the College's Athletics and Recreation department. Here's how he got to where he is, and how Recreation and Leisure set him up for success.


For Ian, recreation and leisure has been a part of his life since childhood. "One of my first jobs was emulating my older brother and sister," he says. "They both worked for the City of Markham in camps, so that's what I always strived to do."

"When I was 14, I became a volunteer, then counsellor in training, then a counsellor and then a supervisor, so I kind of worked my way up through recreation, with summer jobs throughout high school,” he says.

Ian initially went to university for kinesiology, but found it didn't fit him, and so he went back to working for the City of Markham, until he heard about Centennial's program.

"I knew a couple people who had done the program," he says. "They'd loved it, and a few of my supervisors had done the program as well. I also knew [program coordinator] Lorne Hilts. I did a leadership camp, and he came in to teach."

"It was the right time to do it, and this was the place for me," he says.

Developing skills

Despite being a veteran of recreation and leisure, Centennial's program still had things to teach Ian.

"I came into the program knowing more than the average person, because of my extensive background in recreation," Ian says, "but the program in class really helped me think about the things I'd done. You do things, and you don't really think about the theories behind them, so that was really helpful for me."

He also enjoyed the program's most practical component, its field placements, and the variety they offered him.

"We do about 850 hours over two years," Ian explains, "where you learn from someone who's done the job. You're just fully in there, like a full-time employee. A rewarding part is just meeting people. You meet people with similar goals, and ambitions for the future."

"It was about exploring something you might not have thought you could do before," he says, talking about the first of his two placements. "I was in Markham, at a place called the Centre for Dreams, which is a daytime program for adults with developmental disabilities, and that was unlike anything I'd ever done before. I loved it, it was amazing."

As for his second placement? "I got lucky enough to be placed here," Ian says. His current placement at Centennial College's Athletics and Recreation department is a typical example of what someone working in the recreation and leisure field does.

"I'm one of the intramural coordinators," he explains of the position, "so we do a lot of the promotions for intramurals, trying to get everyone aware of what's going on. We going out there, setting up booths, playing games with the students, just getting them excited to play intramurals."

"We've run a bunch of events," he concludes, "like a ping pong tournament, laser tag, rollerskating, bowling, snow tubing, and setting up varsity games, getting all the equipment ready. A lot of behind the scenes stuff."

Awards and opportunities

Before even graduating, Ian's hard work in the program would receive recognition, as he'd win three awards for his skills: The Bob Secord Award, the Jonathon and Sarah Mitchell Award award, and the Leaders of Tomorrow Certificate.

The Jonathon and Sarah Mitchell Award award was for his high grade point average in the third semester, which took him by surprise.

"We do a lot of group work, so it's really a team effort," Ian says about his win. "It was awesome, because it was a nice reassurance that I'd been putting in hard work, and working hard with my classmates."

The Bob Secord Student Leadership Award, meanwhile, is given to an Ontario recreation student that monumentally achieves things in the Rec and Leisure sector. For the last 11 years in a row, Centennial's program has managed to snag the award, and Ian continued that tradition, also winning a Leaders of Tomorrow Certificate at the same time.

"That was a big, big honour," he says about the Bob Secord Award. "I know Centennial College has been winning it for a long time, and a lot of amazing people have won it for them, so it was an honour to be a part of that as well. A couple people that have won it, I'm friends with, or have been mentors or supervisors for me, and I'm just following in their footsteps."

When he wasn't winning awards, Ian also got the chance to attend Leadershape, a one-week trip up north with fellow students to learn leadership skills.

"We went through a lot of workshops, sessions and simulations to get to know yourself, what you stand for, your values, and to get you thinking of the future, the world, and what kind of vision you have for yourself, what kind of dream you want to achieve," he explains.

"What I really loved about Leadershape was that there was a ton of people who didn't know each other and came from different cultural backgrounds. We came together and all became a tight family. It's really what Centennial is all about: People coming together to make things work."

Looking to the future

"I've always wanted to get into municipal recreation, because that's what I've always worked in," Ian says about his post-college career. "I think that working in a community centre, helping provide programs is what I want to do. But there's so many jobs in recreation.I love working with children, I think I want to do that."

As for other students planning to follow in his footsteps? "Do your work and get to know your teachers," he says. "The teachers are amazing here, they have a ton of experience, they've lived it, they practice what they preach, they're there for you, I don't think I've ever had this much support from teachers ever. Just come and make the most of it. Get involved in school. Don't be afraid of the hands-on. It teaches you a lot about yourself and that you're capable of doing so much."

By Anthony Geremia