In a collaborative endeavor between the City of Clarksville and University of the Ozarks, college students recently began working with the local parks and recreation department. The students are participating in a newly formed internship program that allows them to gain experience working in different areas, connect with the community, and deepen the relationship between the University and the community of Clarksville.
The 10 students that were chosen as interns are working in a variety of capacities within the department, specifically in sports, art, environmental, and cultural. Several students even assisted with creating new murals to enhance the downtown business district.
The ideal intern, according to Max Hilgendorf, director of Clarksville Parks and Recreation, is one that is “inquisitive and eager to learn new things, adaptable, [has] good communication skills, self-motivating and able to work independently or with a group, and passionate about the mission and objectives/activities of the organization.”
Hilgendorf, a 2015 U of O graduate, played a significant role in extending the internship opportunity to Ozarks students. He mentioned the uniqueness that Ozarks students are able to bring to the internship program because many of them are international students and therefore bring their own culture and experiences to the program.
Ozarks senior Lynden Gibson, who is from the Bahamas, is one of the students participating in the program. Gibson has been working with planning community events and recreation areas of the department this summer.
“I think this internship is a great way to unite more of the community together and that will lead to the community being more connected to the University,” Gibson said. “The main thing that I wanted to focus on is adding more traditions to the city and with the projects that we have in place, [and] that goal looks to be well on its way.”
Gibson went on to say that the most surprising part of the experience is “all the events that the community has going on.” Gibson will be completing his degree this August in health science and would like to go into either physical or recreational therapy.
Anghy Charles, a senior from Haiti, shared that her interest in this opportunity came from her desire to “fill my time with more outdoor activity” and that it would possibly allow her to “widen my view and understand more than what I’m majoring in.”
While working in the position, Charles has been able to “envision a more giving community” which has created a new appreciation with community work. Charles is majoring in psychology and business administration, with minors in management and philosophy.
Another Haitian student, junior Axelle Duvivier, sought to participate in the program because she had a desire to learn more about Clarksville and help the town that has been her second home for three years. Duvivier has been doing just that by assisting with the murals that are being done in the downtown area. These murals seek to beautify Clarksville’s downtown and to highlight local artists.
Duvivier says that getting to know people who are interested in improving the town has changed her perspective of Clarksville.
“The internship made me realize that the Clarksville community is full of really passionate people who truly care about their town,” she said.
Manchester, England native Harry Hilton was excited about the internship possibility in order to “be deeper involved within the community.” Hilton, who also serves as a student ambassador for the University, plans to go into finance upon graduation. He said he appreciates that the internship allows him to work in teams and grow his connection with Clarksville.
Bendex Stephenson, director of campus recreation at Ozarks and campus liaison for the internship program, commented that “[This] is a real opportunity to capitalize on and we are hoping to make waves for others to notice and see the richness that Clarksville and Ozarks has to offer within this beautiful place.”
Hilgendorf hopes that the partnership will continue between the University and the City.
“We’re still fine-tuning the look and objectives of the program. I hope to see it grow and develop in the coming years. As well as start a year-round Parks internship during the school year” said Hilgendorf.
Stephenson said of the students selected: “These 10 students were [selected] through an accelerated application process to identify what they could bring to the table and encourage more interaction amongst the people of Clarksville. Several events and activities have been selected to help encourage all of these aspects and build momentum as we step into the second half of the calendar year.”
The Clarksville Parks and Recreation Department encompasses the Marvin-Vinson Center, Clarksville Aquatic Center, Recycling Center, several parks, lakes, rivers, and the community garden, as well as recreational trails and youth sports.
Some of the events that the interns have been working on include an adult softball tournament, kid’s sports field day, trail clean-up and improvements, global culture day event, and sip and paint events.