LIVINGSTON, NJ — For the second time this year, Livingston’s Senior, Youth and Leisure Services (SYLS) has achieved one of the highest honors that a municipality’s recreation department can achieve. Jennifer Walker, director of the department, recently became the second person in New Jersey to be named a Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE).
Walker’s family, including her three children, Elizabeth, Emily and Zachary, attended Monday night’s township council along with a group of enthusiastic staff members who carried photos of Walker and congratulatory signs while Mayor Al Anthony presented her with a commemorative plaque from the township recognizing this accomplishment.
“You’re one of only two people in the State of New Jersey to hold this certification, making you the pinnacle of your profession,” said Anthony. “This is terrific. It’s the highest level that you can achieve. It recognizes leadership in all aspects of managing a Parks and Recreation Department, master of policy development and the management of fiscal property and personnel resources.”
Walker, a New York native and a resident of West Caldwell, joined the Livingston Township family in 2009 and has sat on various committees that involved finance, programming and fundraising. Her department, which functions out of the upper level of the Senior and Community Center on Hillside Avenue, oversees all community programming for the township, including operations of both aquatic facilities, the township's summer camp, the Shining Stars program for special needs individuals and much more.
Speaking on behalf of Walker’s staff, Liliana Branquinho, Senior & Adult Enrichment and Special Events Supervisor, said she asked the township to acknowledge this accomplishment because she “thought it was important for Livingston to know that we have the pinnacle of recreation professionals in Livingston. ”
In addition to thanking the council and Township Manager Barry Lewis—stating that her department would not be able to provide all of the services it currently does without their support—Walker also thanked her family members for all they sacrifice in order to allow her to be successful. She then recognized the members of her SYLS staff, whom she described as being “by far the best work family that anybody could ever ask for.”
“The Township of Livingston is unbelievably lucky to have this team working for them,” said Walker. “They put in so many hours and they are so innovative and progressive, and they are constantly pushing and pushing and pushing to offer the residents more and more and more. I could not be prouder of them and I am very grateful.”
Anthony expressed his thrill in seeing the SYLS department back at Town Hall again so soon after being acknowledged for receiving the Daniel M. Gasalberti Award for Excellence in Recreation Programming for the department’s 30th Annual Intergenerational Prom. On behalf of the township and all its residents, Anthony said it was an honor to recognize the department for yet another accomplishment and thanked Walker for her service to the township.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, the CPRE is a “mastery-level credential” that focuses on the practical knowledge and current real-world skills that are “necessary in today’s changing park and recreation environment.” The certification “establishes a national standard for managerial, administrative and executive parks and recreation professionals.”
Some of the career advantages that comes with achieving this level of professionalism include:
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- Demonstrating leadership in all aspects of managing a park and recreation department;
- Mastering policy development and the management of fiscal, property and personnel resources;
- Gaining an edge over other candidates when a promotion opportunity pops up or his/her dream job calls; and
- Joining an elite group of nearly 250 CPRE's who have committed to advancing the field of parks and recreation management.