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Former MCPARC intern returns as park programmer

November 25, 2018

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — In an office overlooking Fairmont’s Gateway Connector, Rachel Mitchell is excited to break new ground, but in a way, she has went back to the past.

While she may have a a new job title, her place of work at the Marion County Visitor Center is where she took her formative steps into the world of parks and recreation several years ago.

“I worked for MCPARC when I was a college student getting my degree in parks and rec,” Mitchell said. “I did my internship here and also worked for about two years here after that.”

Mitchell now serves as park programmer for MCPARC, a job where she can use the knowledge she gained in her time since leaving the commission, and create new initiatives to enhance the community and the lives of the people within; a task she is nothing but eager to work on.

“I feel like since my time here previously, I’ve been able to gain significant experience,” she explained. “I’m glad to be back.”

Obtaining that experience has given Mitchell the ability to not only think creatively, but to also bring ideas from the past to Marion County, where they may not have seen the light otherwise. She has already been given a few projects which occupy some time, but it still leaves her with the capacity to venture into the new.

“I’d like to do things that maybe people haven’t thought of in the past,” Mitchell said. “There’s tons of different ideas out there and I think I’m in a position now where I can sort of activate those.”

Though she is somewhat getting back to her roots, the Mitchell who started as an intern at the commission is not taking a step back in development, as over the past several years, she has worked in Monongalia County as a park superintendent where she gained experience.

She said she hopes to start working on new programming, as her title implies, and be a source of inventive ideas for the parks and recreation department to utilize in the coming years.

“I’ve always worked in the parks industry, I’ve tried different facets of it,” she said. “From managing pools to running summer camps to just being general superintendent of facilities. So now I’m hoping to experience the best of both worlds, being able to be behind the scenes and do a lot of the planning, but also be able to be out in the field a lot and be part of those programs as well.”

Just over a few weeks into the job, Mitchell is already making things happen, as the other leadership of the commission said.

“One of her goals is to create three new programs in her first year of being here,” Tony Michalski, director of MCPARC, said. “She is spearheading a project, we’re looking at doing some future renovations at East Marion Park, specifically to the mini-golf area, and putting some ideas forward now on what we can do.”

According to Michalski, Mitchell will also be working on the kindergarten through third grade basketball league, and assisting with summer, playground and trip programs throughout the year.

Michalski recalled Mitchell in her time working in 2010 and 2011 with MCPARC, and said that in her period of absence, her growth as a professional is evident. Already setting expectations high through her past effort, Michalski feels she is the right person to take on these innovative duties.

“She was actually MCPARC ‘Employee of the Year’ back in 2011,” Michalski said. “She does have some experience, she’s familiar in what we do and we’re just glad to bring her back.”

But for Mitchell, climbing the ranks is only one type of scaling she is used to, as she normally sees a lot more verticality in her undertakings. Being in the field of parks and rec is not a job she took because she likes office life, but because she spends her off-time exploring the outdoors, with rock climbing being a particularly enjoyable activity for Mitchell.

“Rock climbing is sort of my thing on the side,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been doing that for almost 11 years now, so it’s definitely a hobby.”

Residing just outside Morgantown with her husband, David, and her son, Cedar, Mitchell is happy she has a job where she can work to improve the lives of parents and children just like them. And though her travels both through her career and through her adventuring has taken her far, she is hoping to reconnect with the people of Marion County.

“I’m excited to just be able to bring some of my prior experience and skills that I’ve gained and apply it to here,” Mitchell said. “Also looking forward to seeing familiar faces, people that might still be in the area that I’ve worked with in other organizations in the past, hopefully they’re happy I’m back.”

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Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com

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