Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ann Arbor parents "Celebrate" Rec & Ed

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director, Community Education and Recreation (Rec&Ed)

Back in September, new superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift promised the seemingly impossible. Not only was she going to conduct community and staff forums at all 34 Ann

Arbor Public Schools, but she was going to accomplish this "Listen and Learn Tour" by the December school break.

Incredibly, Dr. Swift did all of that and several more forums with community members and students. Her grand total: 80 forums, attended by 2,000 community members, students and staff. The full Listen and Learn report and video are now available to the public on

Ann Arbor parents had a lot to celebrate -- including Rec & Ed programming

I accompanied Dr. Swift at eight of her community forums at elementary schools. Although I was primarily there as staff support to Dr. Swift, I was also eager to hear what parents said about Rec&Ed. Before and after each forum, I was available to talk with parents about their thoughts and concerns regarding Rec&Ed.  

At all of the forums, Dr. Swift facilitated the World Cafe process which allowed participants to talk with each other in small groups about their perspectives on Ann Arbor Public Schools. These small groups rotated to four stations:
  • Celebrate 
  • Reflect 
  • Dream 
  • Prioritize 
To my delight, at almost every forum, parents mentioned something related to Rec&Ed in answering the Celebrate question, "What is going well in the district and what are we proud of?" Often, rather than saying "Rec&Ed," parents would mention summer camps, after school activities, and/or sports that their children had particularly enjoyed. 

I also had many conversations after the forums were over (several in parking lots!) during which people gave me kudos to pass on to individual Rec&Ed staff members and thoughtful programmatic suggestions.

The Listen and Learn final report (p. 7) says the following: 
"Parents, students and community members...are grateful that we have retained, despite years of budget reductions, robust offerings in the world-class arts, extra- curricular, athletics and Rec & Ed programming. Ann Arbor parents and staff highly value these rich offerings as an important part of the Ann Arbor 'brand.'"  
Well, Ann Arbor, the feeling is mutual. At our Rec&Ed staff Listen and Learn meeting with Dr. Swift, one of the items in our Celebrate column was Community Support. Rec&Ed is here to serve you and your family and we're grateful for your support. 

Dr. Swift is hosting five Listen and Learn Results Forums over the next two weeks. I'll be attending the forums held on Thurs., January 30 (tonight) at Forsythe and Wed., February 5, at Slauson. Both forums are from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. If you're attending one of these forums, let's chat!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Want to play a team sport, but don't have a team? Rec&Ed can help!

Guest Blogger Sean Williams, Rec&Ed Team Sports Specialist

I love sports, particularly team sports. You learn the importance of teamwork and how to work towards a shared goal. It's so fulfilling to see young people improve and achieve their own success. It doesn’t stop at childhood; adults can still play too. Rec&Ed has many team sports for adults: softball, baseball, kickball, volleyball, pickleball, and basketball.

Rec&Ed welcomes "free agent" adults to our Team Sports program

While we form the teams in our youth programs, our adult teams come in as an already formed group. Usually, the teams are groups of friends and/or co-workers.

I know, however, that there are many people in the community that may be new to the area or do not have friends with the same athletic interests. In some cases individual players can find some opportunities to join a team that needs someone, but that can be very hit or miss from season to season. That is why I often create “free agent” teams for individuals with similar skill sets to provide an opportunity to participate.

Winter basketball group of strangers picks fitting team name

"I found this league by doing a Google search," Daniele Prestini, who moved to Ann Arbor from Italy last April, told me. "I felt suddenly pumped to play on a team." 

Like Daniele, several other adults called or emailed me about joining a basketball team this winter. Some had recently moved to Ann Arbor and others had been in the area for the last three to six years just trying to find a team to join. I created a "free agent" team comprised of these individuals -- none of them knew anyone else on the team.

I suggested the team name "Strangers," and to my surprise, they wanted to keep it. While the name was chosen to poke fun at the fact that this group of ten men did not know each other a few weeks ago, my hope is that they are anything but strangers at the end of the season in March.

The men on Rec&Ed's "Strangers" basketball team
met each other through our Team Sports program.
We provided the team with shirts as well as practice time over the course of the season. Like most adult teams the Strangers hope to see success on the court, but just having the opportunity to compete is very appreciated. Vimal Mathew immediately volunteered to serve as the team captain and offered his “Thanks for getting us a team.” Vimal said that the team struggled a bit in the beginning as they got to know each other, but are showing more teamwork on the court as the season progresses. 

Win or lose, I hope the Strangers will continue to have fun and enjoy playing a sport they obviously love. I also hope to create many more teams like this in the future with our other adult team sports programs.

If you're interested in playing adult team sports contact me at, whether you have a team or not. 

Find out more about our Team Sports program for youth and adults here

Sean Williams has worked in the Team Sports Division for AAPS Community Education and Recreation since 2001. He's been a "sports junkie" for as long as he can remember. Sean's name has grown to by synonymous with recreational sports in Ann Arbor. He enjoys running and spending time with his family.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

What last week's flood at Rec&Ed's office means for you

What happened?
During the District's snow days last week, a coil broke in one of our ceiling heating units. Hot black water gushed down into the Team Sports hallway. 

Although this has happened to different heating units in the three years we've been located at Pioneer, this time no one was there to call the Facilities department to get the water turned off.

The water poured out of the ceiling for at least 24 hours, until one staff person braved the frigid temps and icy roads to come to work on a snow day.

This is what she found:

Black water filled the 
Team Sports area...

...and our Lifelong Learning offices. 

Several of us came to the office on Wednesday (the final day the district was closed) to survey the damage and work with AAPS Facilities staff to plan and clean. 

In the late afternoon that day, yet another ceiling unit blew, pouring water into the School-Age Child Care staff area. This time, we were able call to Facilities and get the water turned off within 15 minutes. 

Where are Rec&Ed staff working?
The damage to floors, furniture, computers and even cubicle walls was so extensive that we had to relocate about 20 Rec&Ed staff. Several Team Sports staff and all Child Care Coordinators are working in a room on the other side of E-hall from Rec&Ed. Others have moved within our main office, sitting at stations usually reserved for interns or storage. 

I'm so proud of Rec&Ed staff for cleaning out their soggy offices and getting back to work in new locations within 24 hours. Everyone pitched in to make this as smooth and painless as possible. Three cheers for this remarkable, dedicated group with whom I have the honor of working!

We also are grateful for the support we received from our District IT staff. Merri Lynn Colligan (Executive Director of Instructional Technology) helped rescue computers on Wednesday. Other IT staff were in our office all day Thursday testing computers and getting computers and phones relocated. In addition, many Facilities staff have been on hand every day to tear out damaged materials.

What it means for our Rec&Ed participants
Almost all of our Rec&Ed winter programs will run as planned. The one exception is our Youth Basketball program. Because of the three snow days, we had to delay the start of youth basketball by one week. Contact Seth Dodson for more information. 

Even while our staff work from different locations, we are dedicated to maintaining our high standards of customer service. Please be patient during the next few weeks; there may be communication delays as staff work at stations away from their files and other materials they need to provide information or make decisions. The best way to contact Team Sports and Lifelong Learning staff is by email. Click here for an alphabetical list of Rec&Ed staff. 

As always, we thank you for your support! 

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Rec&Ed yoga student's "will to live well" defeats medical challenges

Guest blogger Victoria Cendrowski, Fitness Supervisor and Yoga Instructor 

Lynda Asher is truly an inspiration. I met Lynda in 2001 when she enrolled in my Yoga Pilates class. She told me she had recently undergone liver transplant surgery. Lynda had lost her liver due to hepatitis C, contracted after receiving a blood transfusion from a serious car accident at age eight. 

Little did I know that this surgery was just the first in a series of medical battles that Lynda would survive with her steadfast "will to live well." Let me tell you her story.

Ann Arbor residents may recognize Lynda's name from her many contributions to our community. Prior to her transplant surgery, she ran Project Grow Community GardensShe then founded a non-profit called ISLAND – the Institute for Sustainable Lifestyles and Natural Development. Later, she provided support to liver patients locally and around the globe through another organization she founded.

Lynda enjoying Rec&Ed's new
paddleboard yoga class

Photo credit: Dwight Cendrowski.
At her first Yoga Pilates class, Lynda stood next to me so I could show her how to modify the poses to her comfort level. Over the coming weeks, she gained strength and flexibility. In addition to her yoga practice through Rec&Ed, she is a vegetarian, meditates and does Tai Chi. 

Unfortunately, the many drugs needed to support her liver transplant and suppress Hepatitis C led to other life-threatening medical issues. Astonishingly, in the past decade, Lynda has survived two liver transplants, quadruple heart bypass surgery, kidney failure and lung cancer.

Through it all, Lynda has remained dedicated to using yoga as a way to grow stronger and more fulfilled. She's always willing to try something new in the Rec&Ed Fitness and Yoga program. This past summer, we both added Paddleboard Yoga to our weekly yoga practice (see photo)! 

"Yoga has helped me recuperate and stay healthy on many levels," Lynda told me recently. "For starters, your class was walking distance from my house, when I wasn't even allowed to drive. My body was wounded from the original surgery. Yoga helped stretch out my muscles, ligaments, tendons and skin. It helped with my balance and my confidence.  It also helped me get strong in a managed environment." 

It's true -- I've watched Lynda grow stronger and more confident in my classes these past 12 years. She's also more flexible and has more stamina, better balance and body alignment. When I first met her, she was somewhat bent over, but now stands tall with great posture.

Of course, Lynda hopes for a cure to Hepatitis C. Her wish appears to be coming true. She is currently participating in a drug trial for a cure and the results look promising. Recently, the polymerase inhibitor in her drug trial was approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Within the next 18 months, experts expect to release an oral treatment for hepatitis C with minimal side effects. 

Lynda has beaten the odds by making a habit of wellness practices that can help us all live longer, healthier and happier lives: eating healthy, walking regularly, learning new things, contributing to the community, and practicing yoga, tai chi, and meditation. 

I'm proud and honored to know Lynda. She's certainly taught me as much as I've taught her. Her "will to live well" inspires me every day.

Build your own "will to live well" this winter!  Register for a Rec&Ed's winter yoga and fitness classes here

Want to learn more about how Rec&Ed's yoga and fitness program can benefit you? Email me at

Guest blogger Victoria Cendrowski, M.Ed., has been teaching many forms of dance, fitness and yoga since 1971. Victoria has championed wellness programming at Rec&Ed since she began as Fitness Supervisor in 1990, and she continuously looks for new types of fitness opportunities for beginners  and veteran participants. See related blog about Karma Yoga, which she offers monthly with her daughter Chelsea. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stuck inside? Our new winter classes will have you spinning on a mountaintop

Do you remember the song "Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad...
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so baaaadddd!!

This week in Michigan, we could fill in our own lyrics about ridiculous wind chill readings and the polar vortex.

But, there's hope!

Let me introduce you to some of my favorite new adult Rec&Ed classes in the Winter Rec&Ed Catalog.

(Tip: easy registration for any of these classes here)
  • Yoga for Active People (ID# 3715.201)
  • Yoga for Weight Management (ID# 3724.201)
  • Hands-On Canning Demos - Citrus Fruits (ID# 1631.201) and Pressure Cooking (1631.202)
  • Basic Household Manners for Dogs (ID# 1607.201)
  • Home Repairs for the Weekend Handyperson (ID# 1639.201)
  • Digital Camera Basics (ID# 1254.201)
  • Your First Quilt (ID# 1756.201) and Improvisational Quilting Workshop (ID# 1757.201)
  • Garden Art: Colorful Glass Balls and Small Structures (ID# 2138.204, 05, or 06)
  • Storytelling for Beginners (ID# 1710.201)
Okay...I admit that I have too many new favorites to list! 

Julie Andrews has the right idea. Rec&Ed is offering over 40 brand new adult enrichment classes alongside our old favorites to help you be more physically fit, reduce stress, learn how to use that new iPad/iPhone/camera, explore your creative side and more.

See the inside front cover of our Winter Catalog for a partial list of our new classes, then just keep flipping pages to see them all. Print catalogs will be delivered to AAPS-area households and community locations within the next week. 

What are you excited about in the Winter Catalog? Tell us in the comments below. 

Read "My Favorite Things" lyrics or listen to the song here: The Sound Of Music - My Favorite Things (maria) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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