Raised in Southbridge, the new assistant director of the Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department has only been in the role for a month, but says she is already using her previous experience working with young people and her love for the community to have a impact.
Melody Phillips, 42, joined the department on August 1. His role oversees the day-to-day operations of Wilmington City Parks, as well as overseeing recreation centers.
Phillips has worked in the programming industry for over a decade. Most recently, she was the director of The Warehouse, a community center providing access for teens to social and recreational activities in northeast Wilmington.
Phillips also worked as a program manager at Delaware Technical Community College, where she helped create a GED and career path program for troubled youth ages 16-24.
“The program was a real success,” Phillips said. “We had a 72% completion rate and the state requirement was 67%.”
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Originally from the Southbridge neighborhood, Phillips developed a passion for serving youth and families in the Wilmington area. She prioritizes building communities and enhancing social justice initiatives.
“Southbridge is my home and it’s where I grew up,” Phillips said. “People will often hear me performing Southbridge frequently because I still have a heart for it.”
In addition to her programming background, Phillips started her own consulting firm with the goal of sparking community action through grant writing and designed initiatives. She is also enrolled in the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s doctoral program and is in the process of completing her dissertation on co-developed leadership models for youth and adults.
Delaware Online/The News Journal caught up with Phillips to learn more about her plans for the department and what she hopes to accomplish.
The following questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity:
Q: How did you become interested in the position and why do you want to help lead the department?
A: I believe young people need to be in spaces and places where we can really lift them up to lead and so anytime I get the chance to do that is a good day. Ironically, after I resigned from Teen Warehouse to start my own consulting company, the Director (of Parks and Recreation) (Ian) Smith contacted me to do an assessment of his management team. I met them, made observations, conducted individual interviews to understand their inner workings. Through this process, I also informed them of the different ways the Willam “Hicks” Anderson Community Center could grow from a program perspective.
Q: How has your previous programming and consulting experience prepared you for this position?
A: I’ve only been with this team for a few weeks now, but I’m already benefiting a lot from this experience. For example, my community service work – because I’ve made wonderful relationships with large and small communities and nonprofits all over town, I’ve been able to reach out to a bunch of different partners and have them s actively engage with one last open house we had. Having built those relationships and having that experience of managing the team warehouse helped prepare me.
Q: What goals do you have for Wilmington?
A: To increase recreation and another goal is really to develop a youth leadership program at the Hicks Anderson Community Center and bridge the gap between our senior centers on the first floor and the programs that take place on the main level of the building. , so our seniors might feel more included — we really want to make sure they’re involved in the activities. This would also include carrying out a program where some of our young people interact with seniors and help them understand the nuances of technology, which will help bridge the digital divide that some of our seniors experience. I’ve also heard a lot of young people say they would love to have a music production studio at Hicks Anderson.
Q: Are there any glaring issues in Wilmington that you want to address?
A: One of the things we’ve identified in particular is that there are a lot of “food deserts” in the city, which means there aren’t any local grocery stores that are easily accessible. So one of the ideas we have is to expand the community refrigerators that are popping up in the city. We are currently having conversations with the non-profit organization, Planting to Feed, to potentially launch a community refrigerator in front of the Hicks Community Center.
Q: Are there any specific programs you want to bring to community centers or parks around Wilmington?
A: I think a priority will be to make sure the Wilmington area is aware of the programs that are already available and to have constant communication between all of the community centers – all of them are doing a great job providing programs for young people and to adults and even 12 and under. I think some sort of interactive calendar where we can place each other’s events around the city would really impact how we can get more community members to support these events across the city.
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