CBSHS Alumni Spotlight: Luis Santiago, a Maryland recreation specialist
Meet Luis Santiago, a Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management alumnus who graduated with his master’s degree in 2017. He’s always had a passion for helping people and as a therapeutic recreation specialist with the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, he’s getting to do just that.
Q: What is your typical day/week like on the job?
I have to plan weekend activities for my seven adult social clubs for individuals with disabilities. This can be trips to a Wizards game or to the movies. I have an adult vocational day program that goes out into the community working on vocational skills to learn how to live independently. I usually check in with them daily in the morning to see what that are working on and where they are going. I run an aftercare program for teens with disabilities and they work on the same things as the adults. I usually see them on my way home from work.
Q: What is your favorite part/most meaningful part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is the adult social club mini trip where we go anywhere in the world on a mini vacation for four days. Last year we went to Atlanta and the year before that we went to Colorado. My participants love this and it just cool to do something that they normally don’t get to do.
Q: Describe your career path since graduating Clemson.
I started getting my degree in PRTM from Clemson when I was still working as a Senior Center Coordinator. I am now the Countywide Therapeutic Recreation Specialist for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in the Department of Parks & Recreation, Prince George’s County. We are one of the biggest Parks and Recreation Departments on the east coast.
Q: What inspired you to take this career path?
I always liked helping people and I found the recreation for me was therapeutic. When I was a child anytime, I was stressed or upset, doing a recreational activity just changed my mood and I wanted to be able to share that with people.
Q: How did Clemson help prepare you for your career?
Teaching me the value of statistics for your programs. It helps when I want to ask for more funding or when I need more space to operate a program. Clemson also showed me the importance of leadership and how good leadership can make or break a department. It also showed me that if I could work a full-time job, have two children all while getting my master I could do anything. I believe this too, when things get hard at work, I remind myself what I have done and what I have learn and it keeps me focused.
Q: What was your favorite Clemson memory?
My favorite moment at Clemson I have two really the first was getting my acceptance letter. When I was in high school my school counselor told me that I would never be able to go to a major college or even get my masters. So, when that letter came in the mail I almost cried. I still have my letter. My second was meeting Professor Gwynn Powell in person and Alexis Ward. I don’t believe Alexis is there anymore, but she and Professor Powell helped me out a lot with my degree and time at Clemson and I am forever thankful to them. I also got to see Professor Powell in Baltimore this past year at the NRPA Conference which was also amazing because I got to meet a lot of undergrad students and give them advice on their careers.
Q: Are you involved in any community organizations?
I am a Sunday School Teacher at my church Healing Place Church. I teach 5 to 10 -year-olds about God and do recreational activities with them to help with the lesson plan. I also help start our Special Buddies program at church for children with intellectual disabilities.
Q: Any advice to students?
The employment world keeps changing. If you can get your master’s degree right after school do it but work while you are in your undergrad because experience is what people are looking for. I wish I worked more when I was in undergrad to add to my resume. The last bit of advice I would give is to bring others up with you. As you grow in your career it is your responsibility to mentor, lead and educate the next generation. For what would be the point of all this knowledge you gained and not share it.