My first encounter with Recreation and Wellness at St. Edward’s University was when I was a freshman competing in an intramural basketball league. Initially, I did not realize that the department was run for students, by students.
Upon arrival, I met with two student workers. I was surprised that they were able to run a program at this level, and immediately wanted to offer my abilities to the university. I had a difficult time transitioning to college, without the same people consistently in classes and without basketball, the sport that I had played all my life.
Originally, signing up for intramurals was a way to cope with the stress of college, but also to experience my previous passion once more. I did not know that joining Recreation and Wellness would give me an opportunity to be a part of an accepting community that would provide comfort and a way for me to assist St. Edward’s University.
Prior to working for Recreation and Wellness, I felt that I was not fulfilling my purpose. Instead, I was going through the motions of daily tasks and classes. I felt lost and unable to create meaningful relationships with classmates because we only met a couple times per week, and for only a semester’s worth of time. Furthermore, I was a commuter student who did not get to experience dorm life and engage with other freshmen who took part in activities in their living communities. It was impossible for me to connect with my peers with such limited time together on campus, and I didn’t have a reason to be on campus except for classes.
After acquiring a job at Recreation and Wellness, I began to see the importance of life outside of the classroom. I realized there was more to college than just my education. I was now working alongside people toward a common goal of providing recreational amenities to our student population. The job allowed me to create bonds with many past and current student employees and participants, and those bonds could possibly last a lifetime. I felt like I found where I belonged in terms of people, and also in terms of an industry.
Some of what I have learned as a student staff member at Recreation and Wellness includes the importance of compassion and empathy. The younger version of me did not know what it meant to show grace to others. My previous work experience was more of a solo job, so interacting with people was challenging. Upon establishing a family at Recreation and Wellness, I started to care more about the wellbeing of others. The job I had was not just a job anymore. We crafted a culture where each of us genuinely admired the work that each student staff member was producing, but also made certain that they enjoyed what they were doing.
Our mental health is of the utmost priority at Recreation and Wellness. By prioritizing that as a department on campus, we have been able to set a standard of acceptance for all people, regardless of race, class, gender and religion. Plus, we set a standard for showing kindness to all by extending it to everyone who takes part in our programs.
After helping run events, schedule games, organize fundraisers and recruit new members for club sports, I realized that I had no way of knowing what people were going through in their personal lives. I am only able to see that small snippet of them when they interact with us. But the beauty of working on a smaller campus is that I’ve been able to become more intimate with others. Although what I do is a job, I also feel like I am providing myself as a friend to peers who are willing to, or wanting to, share the more private situations going on in their lives. Gaining the trust of individuals in vulnerable circumstances and hearing the stories of students struggling through adversities allows me to accept them as they are, understand where each individual is coming from, and help them as a fellow student by providing them an experience to lift them through difficult times.
This leads me to what I would like to see from my university in the future: a program that listens to the student body and connects students with all the resources readily available to them. I am certain there are a number of students who are unaware of the opportunities that Recreation and Wellness offers, and it is a primary goal to collaborate with the other departments on campus to appeal to the needs of the St. Edward’s community. To do this, everyone must encourage each other to embrace all differences and similarities — internally and externally.
Having a more open mind to all the possibilities that a recreation program can create will help my university advance in attaining these goals. My ideal campus recreation is one that is willing to exceed limitations to show compassion and provide support to all students.