The Department of Parks and Recreation is the #1 employer of teens in the City of Manassas Park. From life guarding to camp aides, the teen workforce is a significant contributor to our success.
During my tenure with the City of Manassas Park, I have had the opportunity to employ a diligent and reliable teen workforce. Although our employee pool pulls from Manassas City and Prince William County, the teen workforce is predominantly Manassas Park high school students.
Many of these employees started out as participants in our programs. Some have had to work to help support their family, some to enhance their wardrobes, some for their first car, and others to save for college.
What ever the impetus for the hundreds that have adorned the ‘STAFF’ t-shirt over the years, a job at the ‘rec’ is as coveted as it is opportunistic.
Career staff mentor the employees and have been known to write recommendations for colleges, serve as professional references when asked, recommended promotions when appropriate, and even provided some personal support along the way.
As the days have turned into years and the years now decades – this rite of passage, a first stretch of independence for our children, although exhausting at times, will never grow old to me – even as they are. It’s a pretty special moment to have a previous teen employee return to share the more notable moments of their life.
As they introduce you to their spouse, or show pictures of their newborn, or bring in their college degree, with a posture that begs approval – even though my gratification did not make a bit of difference in these achievements, one can not help but be humbled.
Again, this year, many of our teen employees will be graduating from their respective schools and taking that next step. A few will go to college, a few have decided to take a year off, and still others are going straight into a vocation and will start their career right away.
Some want to become teachers, a noble pursuit. Some look to public service, graciously putting the needs of others before their own. Some wish to become police officers or paramedics, tending to us in our times of despair.
Others dream of Hollywood and Broadway, filling the world with the joy of song and dance. A few will enlist for military service; I am never more awe-struck than when a young adult summons the courage to protect an ideal they are only just able to fully experience.
I don’t believe there is ever a time in my life I would go back and reset. My personal philosophy is that in our one existence we all live many lives. The course our lives take, with the detours and heart break, with the achievements, births, and death, through reflection and deceptions, the let downs, the despair and elation, all of this is necessary to learn and grow and live – but above all, none of this is without reason.
It is our differences that make us unique and common, complicated yet entirely predictable. And if I could send a message to our graduating teen employees, it would be this:
These days, the days you are about to put behind you, will not be your best. I can stand to testify that the life that you are stepping into, the one that appears before you the moment you shift the tassel, will become better and better still, as each moment moves you from college or vocation to marriage and childbirth, from car purchases to homeownership, and to all of the various and sundry rites of passage you will experience. In the moment, you may not always be able to recognize its benefit.
Struggles will emerge, plans will change, choices will need to be made. At times you will fail. At times it seems like you will fail much more than you may ever think is possible to succeed, it is true. But do not waste your time contemplating what once was – the past is always safely secured in one place…behind you. It is best left there. The world, your new world, lies ahead of you. And its yours to conquer, claim, keep…change.
From the first day the door of the primary colored walls opened to greet your trepidation and fear with circle times and songs, to this day, the one that grabs hold of your hand and guides you down the commencement stage stairs and bolts that same door shut behind you – you have been preparing for this day. As life begins again for you on this day, as you grow and evolve, it will change again, and yet again, many times over in your one existence.
These past 12 years have made you ready for the next journey. If you don’t believe me, look what you’ve experienced: Two Presidents – one from a long line of politicians and the other, our first African-American President. You were just in 1st grade when the attacks on September 11, 2001 occurred. You’ve lived in a time of war and economic uncertainty. You’ve witnessed two tsunamis (2004, 2011), a devastating hurricane Katrina (2005), and record snowfalls of 24+ inches (2010). Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, Steve Irwin, Dale Earnhardt, Sean Taylor, and Steve Jobs all died in the past 12 years.
But you’ve also learned during a period when Habitat for Humanity built it’s 400,000th home, a national monument for Martin Luther King, Jr. was built, water was discovered on MARS, a fully implantable rechargeable Abiocor artificial heart was approved by the FDA, every major sports franchise in Boston won a championship during this 12 year period (Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox) and you have benefited from the advancement of new technologies (ipod - 2001, iphone - 2007, ipad 2010) and social media platforms (my space – 2003, facebook 2004, you tube – 2005, twitter 2009).
I look forward to one day opening the paper, scratch that…logging on, and reading about the many and varied successes you will have achieved in your tremendous existence. Because without doubt, if our days on Earth are anything…they are tremendous. It is time now, as young adults, after 12 years of applying yourself to your studies, to accomplish this feat, to make that leap, feet first, into your next adventure. So, as you walk out of the sunset of public school and into the sunrise of your next life, as it all really does come full circle, I call you back to the time when you first began with the words of Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…
Because life is really ‘seuss simple’. So go. And keep going. I can’t wait to revel in the many ways you will change your world!!
Congrats to all the graduates and a special ‘shout out’ to Melissa, Raven, Heather, Wiletta, Daniella, Ganimete and Oscar – thanks for the many years of service to the city and safe travels in the next phase of your journey.
Catherine Morretta is the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703.335.8871 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Oh, the Places You Will Go, Dr. Seuss.