Graduating building managers reflect on campus rec’s growth since it first opened
For Yvette Kell, a bittersweet feeling often accompanies the otherwise celebratory atmosphere near the end of every semester at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, and the approaching conclusion of Fall 2017 is no exception.
In just a few weeks she’ll bid farewell to another dedicated crew of student employees who, while working toward their undergraduate degrees, have proved an integral part of operations at the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center she oversees.
Four building managers – Tabitha Milon, Braxton Perry, Davide Scacchetti and Lizzy Turner – are among the current soon-to-be graduates who will be moving on, and each of them have held jobs at the campus facility since its launch about two years ago.
“All four of them started with us early on and were promoted quickly,” says Kell, the director of Campus Recreation. “They showed great leadership skills and a love for the program and building. They will be truly missed, but I know they will all be successful in their future endeavors. I’m very proud to say they worked for us.”
Scacchetti, a criminology and psychology major from Italy, has enjoyed watching the state-of-the-art rec center take off as a hub of university activity. He applied for a student position as soon as Kell’s team started hiring in 2015 and was initially hired as a membership services representative, as were Milon and Turner.
“It was very interesting to see,” says Scacchetti, whose next adventure will take him to Tennessee, where he’s accepted a position with an Italian ceramics company. “We were all part of a new project, and there was a lot to learn. And people were always looking for new ideas to implement in a newborn facility.”
Milon takes pride in how the rec center has continued to not only provide a space for working out and breaking a sweat but also bring individuals together.
“A lot of people come together for intramurals,” the psychology major says during a recent conversation in the main lobby of the facility. “For example, those three guys right there, they play basketball together, and they’re here just hanging out.”
That sense of community has grown beyond the student population as well. In fact, one of Milon’s favorite experiences as a rec center employee is the monthly family night, which regularly attracts a wide variety of people from campus and the surrounding area.
“We’ve had a juggler, I think last time we had a hypnotist, sometimes we have food,” she says of the event. “We had an escape room one night, and the pool is always open. It’s an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing, and it brings the staff together, too.”
Milon, who is earning a certificate in neuroscience from UMSL along with her degree, intends to begin a graduate program in occupational therapy next fall. Even as she wraps up applications and looks ahead to her next steps with excitement, she will miss the connections she’s made on campus, particularly at the rec.
“I think I’ve enjoyed taking on more responsibility and just having an impact on my co-workers and the patrons here,” says the St. Louis native. “I’ve been able to build a lot of relationships with people, and a lot of networking happens at UMSL as a whole. I’ve also enjoyed being involved with Multicultural Student Services.”
Well over 100 UMSL students currently hold part-time positions at the campus rec, and the work itself offers real opportunity for professional growth. Turner, a criminology major with plans to become a U.S. marshal, attests to that as she reflects on the skills she’s developed as a building manager.
“When I first started, this was actually my first legit job,” says the Chicago native, who lives on campus and is also enrolled in the Pierre Laclede Honors College. “I’m a hands-on person, and I’ve gotten to extend my knowledge and learn a lot of the technical stuff, like how the pool works and how to fill out incident reports. And we’re first-aid certified, CPR certified. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also an honor. We learn a lot about conflict resolution, too.”
In addition to interacting with a broad spectrum of people and gaining valuable skills and experience, Turner has enjoyed helping to spread the word about the unique resources the facility has to offer – not just to students, for whom access is included as part of tuition, but to local friends and relatives who can purchase a membership.
“I actually convinced my aunt who lives here in St. Louis to get a membership here,” Turner says. “She was amazed. And even now we still have people coming in who say, ‘We didn’t even know this was here.’”
For Perry, a physical education major and honors student, the way in which the rec center serves as a hub for intramural sports has been paramount.
“I wasn’t able to play college sports, but just being able to still play sports in college, I think that’s pretty cool,” he says. “It’s great to play, and it’s cool to work here too.”
Even when they’re not working a shift, these students can often be found enjoying all that the rec has to offer.
For Turner it’s the courts, where she’s made a lot of friends despite basketball skills that she insists are next to nil. For Milon it’s the hot tub in the natatorium. And Perry has a special affection for what he terms the overpass of the indoor track that bends high above Triton territory.
“I’m not a runner, but when I do run, it is so dope to look out at the campus,” he says. “It’s a really nice view.”
Scacchetti encourages other students to look into on-campus employment opportunities, particularly at the rec.
“It’s a great opportunity to make new friends and get some hands-on experience while making some extra money,” he says. “I honestly really enjoyed working there, and I’m glad I was able to see it grow from the inside these past couple of years.”
Kell credits the ever-evolving UMSL student crew with much of that growth.
“They continue to go above and beyond our expectations,” she says. “Each time we raise the bar for training, expectations, responsibilities and their involvement in the team, UMSL students rise up and take it by storm. These four have shown this by being a part of the crew for two years, working in many different positions and helping train the next crew of folks. I’ll miss them.”
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