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Career-data program aims to attract youths

LIMA, Ohio - There may not be a shortage of people wanting to work in parks and recreation, but Deb Singer knows it's important to nurture an appreciation for the outdoors early.

“You either have a love for it or you don't, because you're not going to get rich at it,” she said. “It's fulfilling in the aspect that you have a sense of pride in what you're doing because you really are doing something to help other people.”

The Johnny Appleseed Metro Park District, Lima city park and recreation department, and Boy Scouts of America are teaming up to start a program they say will be the first of its kind in Ohio. It is aimed at luring young people to careers in parks and recreation.

Young men and women age 14-21 can be part of the new Allen County Parks Association Venture Crew.

A registration meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in McElroy Center on Ada Road next to the park office.

“They'll learn the different aspects of what it takes to keep a park together as far as keeping it safe with park rangering, daily things - like if something breaks, how to fix it, - also what naturalists do as far as pond studies to see how the environment is holding out,” said Ms. Singer, a park ranger and events coordinator with the park district. “This is something totally new, and we're hoping to eventually get something going with other park districts in the state.”

The idea was prompted by a Boy Scouts survey in which 25 to 30 county youngsters expressed interest in careers in parks and recreation. The scouts approached city parks supervisor Del Barton, and it was decided the city and the park district would co-sponsor the Venture Crew.

Ms. Singer said it's a good combination because the city parks are more oriented to active recreation, while the county parks are geared more toward education and the environment.

Activities planned for the Venture Crew include a scuba diving training camp, firearm instruction, self-defense, and canoeing. A skiing and snowboarding trip is planned for February, and a whitewater rafting trip in July.

Londell Smith, Lima recreation supervisor, said the program should be especially beneficial for high school students trying to decide what interests them. “If we expose them to the different aspects of careers related to parks and the outdoors, that might really solidify their decision to pursue a career in it,” he said.

Those involved in the Venture program may decide to apply for a summer job with the city park department or park district. “We both hire seasonal help in the summertime, so if they're interested, they can fill out an application and have a good chance of getting a job because they're already known to us,” Ms. Singer said.

Mr. Smith said the program is a good opportunity for the park department and park district to work together. “We're looking forward to the collaboration,” he said.

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