Next Gen Essayist’s Path Lit by Rec Experience

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My journey to becoming an Exercise Science major was not easy or direct. I started college in 2015 as a pre-nursing major with the goal of becoming a nurse. Like many people I know, this vision changed as I changed.

Without getting too ahead of myself, in the spring of 2016, I was hired to work behind the fitness desk at one of UNC Charlotte's fitness centers. I was consistent with my workouts and was always in the gym, so I figured I may as well get paid to be there. Little did I know, I not only signed up for a part-time job, but a job that would impact and shape my college experience.

Working in the fitness center, I was always surrounded by Exercise Science majors, whether they were coworkers or patrons. As I learned more about fitness, I grew to love the science behind it.

The beginning of the 2016-17 academic year was the hardest of my life. I experienced abuse, toxicity, loss and loneliness. The struggles I faced soon overwhelmed me and impacted my academics. I became ineligible to apply for the nursing program. For the first time in my life, my grades were not "enough." This took a toll on me in a way that I had never felt before, and I was desperate for a way out.

I decided to stick with nursing, which for me meant moving halfway across the country to pursue nursing school in Kansas. I lived with this decision for months, until, just two weeks before I would have packed up and left, I felt a pull to stay at UNC Charlotte. I decided last minute to make an appointment with my advisor. Again, I was told nursing school was just out of reach for me, but the Exercise Science program prerequisites lined up with a lot of prerequisites I had already completed. A light bulb went off in my mind as I teared up with newfound hope for my future and my college career.

Everything seemed to line up for me — from the exposure to the Exercise Science program through those I interacted with, to the love I had developed for learning the explanations behind exercise, to the desire to stick with my family within campus recreation. Throughout all the challenges life threw at me, one constant was campus recreation and the family I had gained from it. I stayed at UNC Charlotte, got a promotion, received my personal training certification and now train faculty and students. I have excelled in the Exercise Science program.

Campus recreation has truly impacted me as an employee, student and person. I have learned the importance of leadership, inclusivity, networking and creativity. The rec center to me is a place I can call home, regardless of which side of the desk I am on. I have the chance to promote equality and acceptance, as well as provide support and empathy. Building relationships with those around me has allowed me to see and appreciate the differences everyone has to offer. Working this job has not only strengthened my professionalism, but my ability to think on my own and be my own leader when needed. I feel that through campus recreation, I have become an eminent part of this campus and can give back to a place that has given so much to me.

Upon my long-awaited graduation, I will ideally have a graduate assistantship lined up with campus recreation. I am excited to learn and develop as a future campus recreation professional in order to put my best foot forward and lead other future professionals. I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead of me as I continue to strive for my ultimate dream of giving back and helping others reach their goals and realize their fullest potential. Without UNC Charlotte's campus recreation program, I would not have had the hope I do now to achieve this.

Looking toward the future of campus recreation, I believe accessibility in all forms will be a must-have in order to accommodate disabilities and mental health disorders, and to break down stigmas within recreation — both for patrons and employees.

At UNC Charlotte, we celebrate the differences between each person. At our most recent all-staff training, employees discussed what made us unique from each other, and we came to an understanding that those differences are okay. Our professional staff is amazing in the support of equal opportunity to each employee and patron. I think this is so important for the society we live in now — to see that differences are okay, and they can even work side-by-side with understanding. I wish to continue this emphasis in order to welcome all who I come across as I go on to lead future students and campus populations.

This article originally appeared in the November|December 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title Rec provides Next Gen essayist a positive path forward." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.


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