Shining a Spotlight on Recreation Superstars

Written by CivicPlus

We are celebrating Parks and Rec Month by celebrating the parks and rec leaders who are creating positive civic experiences in our communities.
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July marks the start of Parks and Recreation Month, in which we take some time to reflect and recognize all the dedicated professionals impacting their communities through the valuable services, assistance, and support they provide to residents seeking healthy activities and programming offered by their local government.

At CivicPlus®, one of the ways we’re celebrating Parks and Recreation Month, and the work and accomplishments of committed community leaders, is to shine a spotlight on a few of its trailblazers and share stories of what drives them to continue making daily, positive civic impacts on residents’ lives.

Ania Pawlak, Pleasanton, CA

Ania Pawlak serves as the office manager for the parks and recreation department and has worked in the industry since 2012. She provides vital assistance to Pleasanton residents and reports being happy to help her department provide an excellent variety of programs and services that enrich lives and inspire a vibrant community.

“I truly enjoy providing support and assistance to our community members,” Pawlak said when describing her role.

Pleasanton utilizes CivicPlus’ Recreation Management solution to facilitate this positive impact on the community. In addition, Pawlak notes that the department can focus on providing exceptional customer services thanks to the tool.

“Our [CivicPlus] software supports our efforts by delivering a smooth and seamless registration and facility booking process,” said Pawlak.

Michele Crose, Pleasanton, CA

Michele Crose is the assistant director for Pleasanton’s library and recreation departments. She’s been with the municipality for a decade and has worked in the recreation field since 1993. She loves providing resources and programming options to her community. With the help of CivicPlus, she reports increased engagement and participation.

“We recently found that participants in our programs come from literally every neighborhood in Pleasanton,” said Crose. “We were excited to see that our programs and services were reaching every corner of our city.”

She notes that the department can now target specific locations of need in the community and focus on areas where participation is not as dense so that they can continue to meet the community’s needs.

Crose mentions that the platform’s ease of use has greatly benefited the community.

“Our previous product was not as user-friendly; it had many broken features that required workarounds and created extra work for both the user and the staff. [CivicPlus] provides information to our community in an easy-to-find format, allowing residents to quickly find what they need and register without issue. This past summer, we saw a huge increase in registrations, and I believe that was due, in part, to this product.”

Maria A. Leiva, Aventura, FL

Maria A. Leiva serves as the community program manager for the City of Aventura. She oversees all City events throughout the year, from planning to executing events such as movie nights, an annual Halloween celebration, a Veterans Day ceremony, and much more. Leiva also manages all recreational programs at the Community Recreation Center.

“We have programs for toddlers, school-age children, teens, and adults,” said Leiva. “All age groups have the opportunity to take fitness classes as well as classes of interest such as art, karate, dance, and gymnastics, just to name a few.”

The City of Aventura also runs a basketball league along with afterschool care, day camps, and various programs that residents can participate in year-round. Leiva notes that the CivicPlus Recreation Management solution has helped streamline these processes.

“We have been able to communicate with our community efficiently and effectively. Doing so has allowed us to reach out to the community about our programs. Much to our surprise, some residents didn’t even know we offered classes and thought we were just a gym.”

Leiva reflects on her time as community program manager, mentioning that it has been a great three years.

“Being able to see the self-improvement in our members is delightful. I have witnessed some of our children blossom throughout the school year and see how participating in an extra curriculum activity has enhanced their self-esteem overall as a child.”

Leiva continues to see her department’s positive impact on the community and the civic experience of residents daily.

“I believe we bring some sanity to the uncertainty of the everyday world. You can walk into our facility any time during the day, and you will hear our members laughing, people being kind to each other, and our staff being familiar with our members. We have been able to create a safe space for our members and allow them to turn to us with confidence. We are not your typical rec center; we are an experience.”

Alessandra Williams, Miami-Dade County, FL

Alessandra Williams serves as the operations coordinator for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces (PROS) Department. In this position, she assists the assistant director of PROS Stewardship and Operations. Within this division, Miami-Dade has nine varied and distinct sections under its purview. These sections range from community parks, aquatic facilities, regional parks, marinas, golf courses, beaches, and maintenance crews, keeping over 280 parks aesthetically pleasing. 

Williams’ role incorporates all the functions that ensure the department operates smoothly, including budget, finance, human resources, procurement, and strategic planning.

Williams brings invaluable expertise and experience to her community. February marked her twenty-eighth year in the parks and recreation industry, and all have been with the same organization.

“It’s the impact that I make on the community in which I live,” Williams said when asked what she likes most about the job. “I know that what I do ensures that we provide the best programming with the right amenities at the best facilities to reach South Florida citizens and visitors.”

Williams reports that her department’s goal is to ensure that they have a positive impact on all patrons.

“From the time they are born to those well in their hundreds,” said Williams. “We provide quality programs and services for youth, adults, and people with disabilities. We instill a culture of pride, collaboration, and excellence with an extreme customer-focus, throughout our department, and it shows in how everyone within the department engages with the public, thereby creating memorable experiences.”

Williams looks forward to all the ways she can continue to impact the community and her department positively and notes that CivicPlus has been instrumental in the communities’ recreation processes, noting that it has been a wonderful addition to how they provide services to patrons. 

“As an organization that has patrons and guests from all over the world that frequent our facilities, it is impactful to have a product that is easy to navigate. The processing of transactions online has greatly increased since the implementation of Park Link, our CivicPlus Recreation Management platform. This allows our management team to focus on other items that allow us to fully enhance the experience of those we serve in the community.”