COLUMBIA — Ron Schmidt left his position as project director with the Voluntary Action Center to fulfill his dream of working with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.
After four years at the center and two years as project director, Schmidt left the position June 14 to become the social services supervisor for the Career Awareness Related Experience program. The program is designed for Columbia youth ages 14 to 18 to receive help and training in a work environment as well as tutoring throughout the year.
A lifelong Columbia resident, Schmidt said that working in the Parks and Recreation Department was something that he has wanted to do all his life. With an education background in parks and recreation and physical education, he said the position was a good fit.
"This job takes my skills, education and passions and rolls them all into one perfect combination," Schmidt said. "The Parks and Rec Department is a model program in the country and this is my opportunity to get something I've worked my whole life for."
In his new role, Schmidt will be in charge of the C.A.R.E. program, overseeing job coaches and trainees that help children on site, working with tutors and employees in the job training program as well as managing the budget and payroll.
The program, which was established in 1982, served 62 children during the past school year and has 172 children enrolled in the program over the summer. It also has more than 80 employers where students in the program can work and gain experience while also earning money.
In his position at the Voluntary Action Center, Schmidt oversaw various projects that the center organized, including Lunch in the Park and the center's holiday program, which provided gifts and food for local families.
Nick Foster, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, said the center is working to fill the position following Schmidt's resignation. Foster said the position may not be exactly the same, but the center is evaluating the best way to staff the program. There is no timetable to fill the position, though Foster said the center will formally announce that a position is available in the next day or two and will begin accepting applications.
"He left under the best of circumstances and we're sad to see him go," Foster said. "He did an outstanding job here. We're disappointed to have lost him, but we know that he'll do the same at the C.A.R.E. program."
Schmidt reflected on his time at the Voluntary Action Center, saying that it was a unique place whose work helping families get out of poverty was "second to none."
Despite this, Schmidt expressed excitement about his new position. Schmidt said he hopes to get the word out about the C.A.R.E. program.
"The program has been established for a long time, so I'm here to try and make a great program even better by making it more organized and efficient," he said. "For a local guy to work with Parks and Rec is a dream come true and I'm happy to be living this dream."
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.