You might say Jackie Gonzalez is living proof of the idea that “it takes a village.”

She says it’s been the support she’s received from other aquatics professionals that has helped propel her to her current position, aquatics manager for Park Ridge Park District in Illinois. To help give others that same opportunity, she is serving as the chair of the National Recreation and Park Association aquatics network. This online community of aquatics professionals was established in 2010 when the organization underwent restructuring.   

As one of the first leaders of the new network, she is responsible for building the membership, establishing procedures, and keeping information and discussion current. She’s also something of a liaison between the industry and NRPA leadership.

“Aquatics is one of those fields where we have such high-risk jobs, and things are changing so quickly that it’s very important to stay on top of what’s going on,” says Gonzalez, who was a swimmer growing up, and graduated from Western Illinois University.

For Gonzalez — honored as a Professional of the Year (2011) and Aquatics Supervisor of the Year  (2009) by theIllinois Park and Recreation Association — having a trusted group of professionals to turn to has also given her an outlet to simply commiserate and share experiences, good and bad.

“It’s been such a fantastic opportunity because I know so many people from across the country that I can ask questions to,” she notes.

Gonzalez, 36, anticipates the NRPA aquatics network will provide a similar outlet. She hopes the online format allows members to make connections on an ongoing basis, rather than just a few times a year at live conferences.

Looking back, it was a previous supervisor who introduced her to NRPA. Gonzales served as the Aquatics Conference chair in 2010 and 2011, and today she hopes to bring her past experience to a wider audience. Her goal as chair is to double network membership and set strong precedents for the future. “We can only gain momentum from here,” Gonzalez says.