Rec-PAC: Meet the Staff
Mike Bonneville grew up with Rec-PAC. He was a camper,
counselor, site director and area supervisor for Rec-PAC before
becoming the manager of this county-wide summer activity program in
2007. He didn't plan a Rec-PAC career; he was pushed in that direction
by his goals -- to make a difference and to help kids in Fairfax
County. Towards that end, Mike also worked with children with
disabilities in the Arlington County public schools for seven years,
with after-school programs and summer programs for emotionally
disturbed children and at teen centers on Friday and Saturday nights.
"Kids have been my passion," he explained. "Even more so
now that I'm the parent of the most amazing son in the world! And the
Rec-PAC program, its campers and staff are just an extension of my
family." Born and raised in Fairfax County, Mike now lives in
Centreville, Virginia, with his wife and four-year-old son.
Your job as Rec-PAC's manager? I oversee 181 volunteers, 350
camp staffers, eight area supervisors, four office staffers and 3,000
kids a week. I make sure that our kids are in a safe environment,
having fun while they learn and enjoy recreation. I love my job! I get
paid for coming up with entertaining and creative things for kids to do
and putting those ideas into action. It's like being a kid again. It
keeps me young. There's a quote that explains it perfectly: "If you
love your job, you will never work a day in your life." That is how
I feel about my position with the Park Authority. I get the opportunity
to work with some the best people in the county, all striving towards
one propose -- to better the lives of the families in Fairfax County.
What do kids learn in Rec-PAC? They learn that character
counts. We've incorporated that national program, with its emphasis on
the six pillars of character (citizenship, respect, trustworthiness,
fairness, caring and responsibility). We get a diverse group of kids so
we have an international week to give our campers a better
understanding of different cultures. We do cooperative game playing to
open their minds, and because kids need to be outside, we teach them
active outdoor games that they can play in a group or on their own.
They learn about fitness, too, through games and obstacle courses, and
by eating healthy snacks and juice, not high calorie junk food and
What are parents expect from Rec-PAC? Structured activities
that are fun and new to kids. Professionalism on the part of staff.
Staff that's responsive to and responsible for the safety and welfare
Your philosophy for managing Rec-PAC? When you work with
children, you should be held to higher standards. Kids need positive
examples; they deserve good role models. That's a priority for our
counselors. Parents pay with their hard earned money for the program --
they should be given the best customer service and their children
should be provided with the best quality care.
Best thing about Rec-PAC? The staff, the children who attend
and the parents of those children. Rec-PAC is a big family. Every child
is treated with respect and care, and we try to open their minds to
their own creativity. There's a lot of camaraderie. It is wonderful to
see children trying new activities that they have never done before and
excelling in them. I like to watch the staff work as a team to try new
things. It's a great thing to see veteran staff helping new staff.
Summer is the best time of the year! At Rec-PAC, kids get the
opportunity to learn many new things and teach us new things as well.
The Rec-PAC Program staff consists of Area Supervisors, Site Directors
and Leaders. Staff are selected on the basis of skills, knowledge and
ability areas of arts, and crafts, sports and games, leisure
activities, leadership and resourcefulness. Many Rec-PAC staff work for
Fairfax County Public Schools during the school year as teachers,
guidance consolers and teacher assistants. There are also individuals
who are college students with educational backgrounds in recreation,
elementary education, or a related field of study. The Rec-PAC staff is
comprised of 8 area supervisors, 50 site directors and over 300
leaders. The Rec-PAC management staff puts forth every effort to place
the best-qualified staff at each site to ensure a positive recreation
experience for the children.
Hi, I am Buddy, the official mascot for the Rec-PAC summer program. I
love playing games, dancing and using my imagination to create new
things, especially during arts and crafts. You can also be sure to see
me in the game room playing Wii Baseball. Every summer, I show up at
Rec-PAC with a mission…. to talk to campers about the importance of
being a friend to everyone. I encourage campers to talk about bullying
and how it can hurt people, not only physically, but also emotionally.
Children will hear me say, “we all come in different shapes, colors and
sizes, but we are all human and should treat people the way we want to
be treated.” I am excited to say I have been a part of the Rec-PAC
program for two years now and I look forward to many more years of fun
in the sun with the campers.
My main goal is to make the summer a special one for every camper by
educating kids on the harm bullying does to a person and how each of us
can prevent bullying…we all have the power to make someone’s summer the
greatest it can be!
De'Arberge Wiley is graduate from Long Wood University. She has
been working for Rec-PAC since 2007 and is the HR representative for
the program where she assists with the overseeing of over 300 staff.
You are sure to find her assisting customers with registration issues
and also making sure staff are at the correct location. De’Arberge also
assists the program manager with the day to day operations and ensuring
that sites are running at ratio and campers are having a great
experience with the program.
Job position and what you like about it? I love my position of
the program. It allows me to work in all the facets of the program such
as hiring staff, creating new games, working with customers. I also
love the fact that I get to work with not only the staff but the CIT’s
and campers as well.
Best thing about Rec-PAC? The best thing about the Rec-PAC
program is the diversity of the staff. The staff all come from
different cultures and it is amazing to watch people from all walks of
life come together for one purpose, to help children.
What is your best memory working for Rec-PAC? My best memory is
when I went to a couple of Rec-PAC sites to teach step. Step is a type
of dance that is popular on most college campuses. It was exciting to
watch kids who were shy get involved in the dance and come out of their
shell. I felt a great sense of happiness to see children learning
something new and being excited about it. It is something I look
forward to doing again every summer.
Thelma Pemberton-Abbott grew up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin
Islands. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York
City, where she studied public and government administration. But when
her daughters were ready to start school, she wanted a quieter place to
raise a family. Her husband found a job in Northern Virginia, they
resettled here, and in 1999, Thelma joined the Park Authority as the
lead counselor at Mt. Vernon Woods Elementary School's Rec-PAC. She
became director there, and then director for Rec-PAC sites at Woodley
Hills and Hybla Valley elementary schools. This is her third season as
an area supervisor for the summer activity program. For the balance of
the year, she works for Fairfax County Public Schools.
Your role as supervisor? I miss working directly with the kids,
and I really liked planning engaging and fun activities for them. It
was such a pleasure to see their enjoyment firsthand. But it's also
very satisfying to oversee an area and have the opportunity to fix
things that are not right.
The most important thing for parents to know about Rec-PAC?
That their children are in a safe environment. We're taking good care
of their children, and we're making sure that they have fun.
Most rewarding Rec-PAC moment? Two of our campers at one site
were twin boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I made it
a point to include them in all aspects of our program, and I made
provisions for them when they were having difficult moments. We kept
them extremely busy, and they not only got along, but they had a
Most fun? Our Hawaiian luau. We made and wore grass skirts -
even the boys! We played pineapple bowling with a coconut, and everyone
took a Hawaiian name for the day.
Your motto for life? Grant me serenity to accept the things I
cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know
Best thing about Rec-PAC? To see the campers who come in
reluctantly on the first day have such a great time that they don't
want to leave. They want more. And I truly enjoy the success stories
that parents share with us about their children's time at camp. We
strive to make a difference in the life of every child who attends
Rec-PAC because that is what's important.
Kristen Smith was a three-sport athlete (soccer, volleyball and
baseball) at Herndon High School, and with a four-year soccer
scholarship, she went on to Radford University, where she earned a
degree in education. She's now a fourth grade teacher at Forestville
Elementary School, tutoring and coaching soccer on the side and
completing a master's degree at the University of Virginia in the
social foundations of education. A Rec-Pac camper as a child, Kristin
joined the Rec-Pac staff nine years ago, starting out as a counselor,
then becoming camp director at Clearview Elementary, where she once
attended school. For the past four years, she's been an area supervisor
for the summer activity program.
What do kids gain from Rec-Pac? They learn how to work and play
with other children in a leisure atmosphere. They learn team building
skills and social skills. By working with kids of different ages, they
learn to take leadership roles.
What do you remember most from your days as a Rec-Pac camper?
Arts and crafts, playing ping-pong and learning how to make friendship
bracelets. And my counselors - I can still remember their names. Skills
that you want in a counselor? Leadership and creativity. I want to make
sure our counselors are good role models and team players who are
excited about Rec-Pac activities.
Your motto for life? Be happy! I'm always happy, no matter
what. Even on a bad day, I look for something to smile about . . . and
I always find it.
Best thing about Rec-Pac? It's so much fun! It's enjoyable to
see the kids with their friends, having the best time of their summer.
A Fairfax County native, Chrissy Williams attended Tysons
Elementary School and McLean High School, then went on to Old Dominion
University for undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood
development. Now a teacher at Lake Anne Elementary School in Reston,
she's also treasurer of the D.C. chapter of the ODU Alumni Association.
Chrissy loves traveling and has satisfied her wanderlust with visits to
Japan, Germany, Mexico, the Bahamas and much of the U.S. She also
counts shopping, her Doberman Shatzi and beach vacations among her
favorite things. From a start six years ago as a Rec-PAC counselor,
Chrissie advanced to director and she's now an area supervisor for the
summer activity program.
How do you keep things running smoothly at multiple Rec-PAC
sites? We do serious work before the fun starts. Counselors and
directors spend a week in training, planning all the special events and
mastering the games that they'll teach the children. They learn how to
handle registration, deal with parents, accommodate special needs kids
and incorporate Character Counts. And we put special emphasis on
Secret to engaging kids? Our outgoing staff pulls everyone
together with team building activities that get all the kids working
together for a goal. If children are hanging back, the counselors pick
a really fun activity that everyone wants to play and they encourage
the holdouts to participate by giving them an important role for the
Campers' favorite fun? Special events, like our Sports
Festival. Last year, a community service finale, Rec-PAC Gives Back,
was added to the closing week. How does that go over? The kids love it!
They wrote letters to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, they made
sandwiches for people in homeless shelter, they conducted a food drive
and more. At all the Rec-PAC camps, the kids got really into it. They
love knowing that they're helping someone else.
Best thing about Rec-PAC? To see so many kids laughing and
smiling . . . all day long!