Last week, 18 students from the Department of Recreation Administration converged in Long Beach for the annual California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) Conference. Held annually, the conference attracts hundreds of industry leaders and professionals as well as students in the field, from all over the state.

The conference gives attendees an opportunity to network and learn from professionals and also meet students from other universities throughout California. The various workshops and presentations provides information about best practices and quality service from some of the most influential in the field.

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Recreation faculty with CPRS Scholarship recipients shortly after they were awarded. L to R: Brandon Taylor, Jack Hettinger, Shae Scott, Brenda Gutierrez, Abigail Jacobo and Dr. Sam Lankford (chair of the department).

“It is important for students to attend so that they are learning about successes throughout California and western region of the United States, so that they continue to build upon their knowledge and network future employment opportunities,” said Brandon Taylor, a lecturer in the Department of Recreation Administration.

For college students, finding the funds to attend the three-day conference is not an easy task. In addition to the conference fees, other expenses such as travel, food and hotel can add up for students on a budget. Due to the generosity of Manuel Mollinedo, director of the City of Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation & Community Services (PARCS), four students in the Community Recreation and Youth Services emphasis were able to each receive a $250 scholarship.

“As recreation professionals, we need to support all of our college students that are recreation majors,” Mollinedo said. “These individuals are the future of our profession and, as such, should be provided with a solid foundation that will prepare them for full-time positions in this field.”

Students with an emphasis in Community Recreation and Youth Service, and in good academic standing, were chosen to receive the scholarship to attend the conference, which took place March 8-11. The award recipients included Jack Hettinger, Abigail Jacobo, Shae Scott and Brenda Gutierrez.

Hettinger, a senior, said receiving the scholarship to attend the conference helped alleviate any financial burden he initially had.

“I’m currently working part-time at the City of Clovis Recreation Department,” Hettinger said. “Being a full-time student and working part-time is difficult. I didn’t have to use any of my own money while attending CPRS thanks to this scholarship.”

For Abigail Jacobo, a senior, the benefits of attending the conference are beneficial in more ways than one.

“One of the most important benefits you receive from attending the conference is the unlimited access to recreational professionals,” said Jacobo. “Our advisors are really good at getting us connected with professionals in the field, but CPRS allows you to meet with them in setting that is not possible elsewhere. The classes/seminars offered at CPRS was a refreshing environment to learn in and had a diverse level of attendees, ranging from first timers to administrative professionals. To me, this was amazing that a person in a high position can come to conference and talk to somebody like me, a student.”

For Hettinger, the vital chance to network hit close to home.

“CPRS was beneficial to me as a student/future recreation professional because I was able to network with different people working for different city recreation departments,” he said. “Going to the different sessions and listening to other people’s ideas on certain topics was interesting. I even unknowingly sat next to some of the people I’ll be working with at my internship with the City of Visalia Recreation Department.”

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Recreation students and Manuel Mollinedo at the CPRS Conference. L to R: Jack Hettinger, Frida Cardoza, Mollinedo, Shae Scott, Abigail Jacobo, and Gladis Villalpando.
Under Mollinedo, the City of Fresno PARCS has continuously supported Fresno State’s Department of Recreation Administration by accepting numerous interns, speaking with students, and allowing them to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom out into the field. In fact, this marks the second year that Mollinedo has given his time and resources to students through the scholarship.

“The City of Fresno PARCS has been a vital partner in our department’s ability to place well-equipped students and graduates in the profession,” said Taylor. “The knowledge that Mr. Mollinedo and his staff bring to our department provides the hands-on experience that our students are seeking. The scholarship is just one way in which Mr. Mollinedo shows his support and admiration of the students in our department.”

The Recreation Administration department, along with the Office of Community and Economic Development and other department at Fresno State, recently partnered with the City of Fresno PARCS on the Sustainable Parks and Recreation Community Initiative (SPARCI) program, which would allow students and faculty to connect with local agencies and engage in community projects that will contribute to the quality of life in the Central Valley.

The department was recently ranked #2 out 150 universities by College Values Online for offering one of the best values for degrees in parks, recreation, tourism and hospitality.

For more information, contact Brandon Taylor at brtaylor@csufresno.edu or 559.278.2315.