The College of Health and Human Services and Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology came together for the first Sustainable Parks and Recreation Initiative (SPARCI) Mini Symposium March 29th. Over 70 students took part in the symposium. Each are enrolled in RA 113, Serving At-Risk Youth, or CFS 136, Adolescent Development.

Since the beginning of the semester, the students in these courses have been developing a project that seek to improve services to meet the needs of the City of Fresno’s Parks, After School, Recreation & Community Services (PARCS). Projects specifically focused on the benefits of park and recreation programs, and best practices of youth “at risk” programs and programming.

They also took a close look at discrepancies in existing youth “at-risk” programs and the specific opportunities PARCS spaces and activities offer to meet the development needs of youth.

DSC_4854adjIt’s all part of the SPARCI program, which was introduced at the beginning of the semester. The program, spearheaded by the Department of Recreation Administration, the Office of Community and Economic Development and various departments on campus, allows 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 students in RA 113, who encompass a variety of majors on campus, were tasked to utilize the concepts learned in the course to develop a comprehensive program prototype that could be of use to the City of Fresno PARCS in future program development. Working collaboratively in groups, students were responsible for researching a current timely issue related to at-risk youth. In front of their peers, they then provided potential intervention/programs and presented their findings in front of their peers.

Edgar Tamayo, a senior Recreation Administration major, and his group focused on the concept of communication. The design of their program involved a series of workshops centered around effective communication as it relates to youth development. Each member of the group utilized knowledge from their own academic discipline to design a workshop activity, which included a poetry session, bully prevention tips, team-building and outdoor recreational activities.

Other members of his group included those majoring in sociology, criminal justice and child development.

“Our group chose this particular topic because we know how difficult it is for today’s youth to effectively communicate with the people and environment around them, especially in today’s time when we’re ruled by technology everywhere – making things such as face to face communication harder to do,” Tamayo said.


Students in CFS 136 presented draft posters on Adolescent Development Analysis Reports they’ve been developing as members of Adolescent Development Analysis teams. Each team selected a specific PARCS space or activity and drew upon research to analyze and identify developmental opportunities offered to local adolescents via PARCS.

Teams will be responsible for writing a research paper on their findings and developing an academic poster to highlight key conclusions of their analysis, which will then be showcased at an end-of-semester presentation.

“The mini symposium was designed to help students be inspired by the efforts of their classmates and of peers considering PARCS through a different perspective, and to gain practice presenting their work to an academic forum,” said Aimee Rickman, instructor of CFS 136 and assistant professor in Child and Family Sciences.

Brandon Taylor, instructor of RA 113 and faculty in Community Recreation and Youth Services, said the mini symposium also helped students to understand how the two classes are connected and how it can be influential to youth.

“From speaking with students from both classes, there was great value taken from hearing how the theory of adolescent development truly affects the programs developed for youth, and the breadth of providing programs for youth considered ‘at risk’,” Taylor said.

Tamayo reflected Taylor’s comments, saying hearing both points of views from those in the two courses was important.

“I feel it is necessary for us to approach the concept of at risk youth from different angles in order to come up with better ideas in helping to resolve some of the issues facing our youth today,” Tamayo said. “It definitely helps our knowledge process and helps makes us better able to serve the youth from a well-rounded background.

Each of the project submissions will be judged for entrance into the SPARCI Community Engagement event, happening May 12. That event is part of the larger 2016 San Joaquin Valley Parks Summit, which will promote efforts for developing, maintaining, and supporting park development in Valley communities. This will give the students involved a chance to network and discuss their project with regional community decision makers.

To learn more, contact Brandon Taylor at brtaylor@csufresno.edu or Aimee Rickman at arickman@csufresno.edu.

[All photos courtesy of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology]