Jamie Cannon brings a unique perspective to the role of program director for the North Caldwell Recreation Department.
With bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts, Cannon, who is also pursuing a doctorate degree in art history, took over the part-time position earlier this year after serving as the department's assistant director the past three years.
"I helped build it up," Cannon said. "I have a passion for this."
Now she's looking to sculpt her own work of art.
When Donna Montesano resigned as the department's full-time director, the position was split into two part-time roles: a program director and an athletic director, which is held by William Maranz.
Cannon, 27, admits the department is still transitioning, but also adjusting to feedback received from the community that has already resulted in several procedural changes—with more to come.
Here's a look at some of the new additions and what Cannon hopes to accomplish in her new role as well as what the department's Summer Fun program has been like this year without Alyssa Martino, a longtime camp counselor who died recently at the age of 19.
Caldwells Patch: Can you outline your overall experience with the recreation department to this point?
Jamie Cannon: I was the previous director's assistant for three years and a summer camp instructor of arts for four years.
CP: How is camp gong this year—are there a lot of children attending?
JC: It's good—we are having a great time. We currently have about 250 kids enrolled in the Summer Fun camp.
CP: In addition to the regular activities, what else are the campers doing?
JC: We have a lot of stuff coming up. We are going as a group to a movie and we have carnival day coming up. On the last day, we have a DJ Jam pool party and barbecue. We also have a talent show, because the kids are so cute!
CP: Now that you're in the department's driver's seat, what are some the challenges you are facing this year?
JC: The economy. Things are getting harder (money-wise), so we are trying to find cost-effective ways to still have fun programs. We want people involved and having fun.
CP: What are some of your future goals?
JC: Personally, I want to work with kids and be a professor at night. Here in North Caldwell, recreation and Summer Fun are near and dear to my heart.
CP: What are some specific goals you have in mind as North Caldwell's recreation program director?
JC: We are in transition—we are already making changes. With the summer camp, we now have two pool days a week. When it's really hot, they are in there all the time. I have been making changes based on the feedback of the community. For example, again at the pool, we have pool badges now. People love it. Before, we had (members listed in) binders. We are also not using as much paper. When people have four kids, etcetera, they don't have to stop at the gate now.
CP: Are you reaching out to the community through the Internet?
JC: Besides the town website, we have a Facebook page, "North Caldwell Recreation Department" and I do send out e-mail notifications.
CP: Did you attend a summer camp as a kid?
JC: I did ... and in comparison, this is a wonderful program. Our staff is great. When I was a camper, we were just in a playground. This is a value for the money—access to the tennis courts, pool, classes like karate, cooking, arts and crafts. Kids here do have to pay to go to the movies, but if you work it all out, it's like $10 a day.
CP: On a serious note, how has the loss of Alyssa Martino impacted the summer camp this year?
JC: (Pauses) She did it for so long here—all of the kids looked for her this year. We miss her dearly. She was energetic, fun. Without her, we don't have Sam (her sister), who is also missed.