By Tara Cavanaugh
If you see Jenna Bacolor, be sure to say hi. She’d be thrilled to get to know you.
You might see the new Rec and Ed director out with her family in Gallup Park or walking the dog in the Eberwhite woods. You may have see her out at summer camps, getting to know families and Rec and Ed staff.
“I’m a walk-around, talk-to-people type person, so I’m trying to do that every day,” said Bacolor, who started the job July 19. “One of the most important things I’m doing is having staff take me to their programs.”
Bacolor is happy to learn from the experience of her staff –– and her staff has a lot of it. When she led her first staff meeting in July, Bacolor tallied the collective years served, ending up with a whopping 375 years between 26 people.
“One thing that’s come across to me clearly is that the staff here really care,” Bacolor said. “They really want to offer programs that people enjoy, that are enriching, that are healthy.”
Although Bacolor is just starting her position in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, she’s no stranger to the district or Rec and Ed.
She’s worked on a wide variety of health programming all over the county, including initiatives with AAPS through which she had worked with Sara Aeschbach, the recently retired Rec and Ed director. Bacolor’s daughter will be in eighth grade at Slauson and her son will be in fifth grade at Eberwhite this fall.
“One of the things that attracted me to this position was the ability to be in the district where (my kids) go and also, we’ve been consumers of a lot of Rec and Ed activities, so I knew that this was a great program,” she said.
Bacolor, who is originally from Royal Oak, holds master’s degrees in social work administration and public health from the University of Michigan. She worked for 16 years in the health promotion division at Washtenaw County Health. She started out as an intern while in graduate school and eventually became a the program supervisor.
Even with her supervising experience, Bacolor is a little overwhelmed by the volume of Rec and Ed programs.
“It’s astonishing how much we offer,” she said. “Part of it is because we live in a place where people feel like they’re lifelong learners. No matter what age they are, they want to keep growing as people.”
Bacolor is also impressed by the amount of scholarships Rec and Ed gives. It granted full or partial scholarships to over 1,300 families last year.
“I want to make sure that we’re getting our programs to people who have low-incomes or are underserved in our community,” she said. “I believe that everyone should have access to recreational opportunities.”
In a lot of cities, Bacolor added, Rec and Ed programs hardly exist. “We’re very fortunate to have such a robust program here,” she said. “And being part of the school district is a huge benefit for everyone because we can utilize the school’s facilities, providing service at a convenient location.”
Now that the start of the school year is fast approaching, Bacolor hopes to keep meeting and greeting the AAPS community.
“I plan to be out meeting people and really out in the schools when school starts,” she said. “People may see me out there, and I hope people will approach me, as I will be introducing myself. I want to be out there learning directly from our participants about their experiences with Rec and Ed.”