LFCC Recreation/Outdoor Leadership Course Leads to New Career For Nurse
When she first started taking some online LFCC courses, Front Royal resident Angela Schroeder had no idea it would lead her into a fulfilling new career.
After graduating from high school in the Newport News area, she attended one semester at Thomas Nelson Community College, but ended up leaving to go to work.
Later, Schroeder decided to go to Sentara College of Health Sciences in Norfolk, earning her practical nursing degree. She worked as a licensed practical nurse for 15 years, and still holds her license.
As a single parent of three children – two with special needs – Schroeder decided to take some time off from work in 2015. That’s when she signed up to take some LFCC courses online.
Soon, Schroeder learned about an innovative program developed by Professor Stacey Ellis. Ellis, the program lead of health, physical education, and recreation, has created the recreation and outdoor leadership specialization for the associate of arts and sciences degree in general education.
Courses include introduction to recreation, parks and leisure studies; outdoor recreation; wilderness first aid; leadership and supervision; and program planning. Graduates can transfer into degrees in parks and outdoor recreation, sports management, tourism and events management, therapeutic recreation and more.
Or, they can head straight into careers as public parks and recreation department specialists, camp staffers and managers, park rangers, outdoor and park guides, leisure programmers, adventure and outdoor programmers, and the like.
This ties in to some of Schroeder’s previous work.
“During the time when I was working in pediatric care, I realized that outdoor play was going to be really important to public health,” she says, noting children were becoming more and more reliant on digital recreation.
That spurred her to want to work to get children outside more and to appreciate the environment.
At the time she met Ellis, Schroeder didn’t even realize therapeutic recreation was a career option.
“I started doing some research, and thought, ‘That’s for me,’” she says.
She graduated from LFCC in 2017 with an associate of arts and sciences degree with a concentration in recreation and outdoor leadership.
For the past several months, she has been working as an activities assistant with a social worker for an agency that provides programs for marginalized and under-advantaged populations.
Much of her job is done at Community Living and Residential Services, an independent living facility in Middleburg, although she does work with people of all ages.
On a recent December day, Schroeder was playing Yahtzee with senior citizens and reminding them of an evening party at a neighboring fire department. She encourages the residents to do physical activity, such as yoga, walking and working out to exercise videos.
Schroeder also provides nutritional programming and diabetes workshops to residents. Many of them are illiterate, and she helps them with mail and bill paying.
“We do bingo every Wednesday – our clients love bingo,” Schroeder says.
As part of her job, Schroeder has even taught children how to leave no trace – or to treat the outdoors responsibly. She has certification in that area through her courses at LFCC.
Ellis is touched to learn Schroeder is passing on what she learned at Lord Fairfax.
“It’s great to see students imparting knowledge they garnered at LFCC on to others,” Ellis says.
Schroeder doesn’t have much longer to go to finish her bachelor’s degree in recreation management with a specialization in therapeutic recreation at George Mason University. She’s already in the accelerated master’s program for recreation administration.
“I’d like to work with adults with disabilities, probably in the non-profit sector,” she says.
Her experiences at LFCC have been so beneficial as she pursues her higher degrees.
“The program planning class was very helpful because we as a class planned an event,” Schroeder says. “That was kind of my first experience with event planning.”
Tasked with planning the Middletown Campus’s annual spring picnic, students had to contact vendors for orders and coordinate the event with departments throughout the college.
“That laid the groundwork for courses I have to take at George Mason,” Schroeder explains.
“I will never forget the outdoor adventure class because it pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Schroeder says.
That class saw her go caving, hiking and rock climbing, as well as doing archery.
“I love LFCC,” Schroeder says. “I wish that I could go there for five years and earn my master’s at LFCC. Once I finish my master’s degree, I might come back and earn my American Sign Language certification at Lord Fairfax.”
Schroeder says she was 38 when she first enrolled at LFCC.
“It was my third attempt at college, and I wasn’t going in it thinking, ‘I’m going to get my master’s degree,’” she says. “It was something to do while I was home with my kids. It has snowballed into a new career. I never thought that three years later I’d be working on a master’s degree.”
Ellis is Schroeder’s favorite professor.
“She gave me a lot of direction,” she says. “She’s got so much knowledge when it comes to the recreation field. She’s also very encouraging.”