York College Recreation and Leisure Administration grads continue friendship through careers at Hershey
For Keighla Blaney and Jaci Caralle, a bachelor’s degree from York College of Pennsylvania wasn’t all they took with them after graduation.
They also forged a friendship that carried through from their days as interns with Hershey Entertainment & Resorts to the start of their careers at Hershey. They’re still roommates to this day.
Through it all, Blaney and Caralle credit their Recreation and Leisure Administration education at York College for setting them up for success.
“I feel like York College helped mold me into the professional I am today,” says Caralle, a recreation coordinator at The Hotel Hershey. She supervises a staff that ranges from 30 to 80 during the peak summer season, and she manages a broad array of tasks, from teaching lifeguard classes to coordinating Hershey character appearances at events.
Her friend Blaney also wears many hats in her job as the assistant manager of banquets at Hershey Country Club.
“Lucky for me, there is not a lot of repetition in my job, every day is different,” says Blaney, who works with clients to organize events from business meetings to golf events to social events.
Both women switched career paths a few times before settling on York College’s Recreation and Leisure Administration major.
Blaney, from Pine Island, New York, enrolled as an education major after falling in love with York College’s class sizes and campus. Caralle transferred to York College from a community college. The Hampstead, Maryland, native bounced from Psychology to Behavioral Sciences to Theatre before choosing Recreation and Leisure Administration when she knew she wanted to become an event planner.
They didn’t become close until the end of their time at York College. But during their senior year in 2011, they both became teaching assistants for the Special Events Planning class, and they were fast friends.
They both still laugh about the time they decided to make edible invitations for an event they were planning with their Special Events Class, embarking on an overly ambitious cake pop project that resulted in some long nights in the kitchen.
“It took about three days and a lot of cake and time to make all of them, but they turned out really great, and we still laugh about it,” Caralle says.
‘A smooth transition from college into the workplace’
Blaney says they’ve been inseparable since then. And while their jobs don’t put them in contact with each other very often, they share an appreciation for York College and how their educations prepared them for the workplace.
“Having professors that actually worked in the field helped me a lot,” Caralle says. “The experiences that they shared in class set me up for a smooth transition from college into the workplace. Recreation isn't a profession you can learn solely from a classroom.”
Caralle added that Professor JoAnn Garman, who taught a class in recreation facilities, was an instrumental source of support for her.
“I got 90% of the information I use today from her,” she says. “I remember her telling me that I should get my lifeguard certification, and I was like, ‘No way. I'm going into a hotel; I don't need that …’
“Yet, here I sit, (and) not only do I teach the classes, I lead the classes for the entire resorts group. It's pretty amazing.”
Connection to coursework
Blaney also leaned on her professors as she tried to determine her career path.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get into hospitality, and I did not think that I wanted to work in food and beverage,” she says. “However, I learned to try new things. Today, I have a job that I learn new things at each day.”
Blaney felt a strong connection to her York College coursework, particularly because it connected with her as a kinesthetic learner.
“Much of my coursework in Recreation and Leisure was hands on,” Blaney says. “Rarely did we sit at our desk and read or take quizzes – we were up and moving and learning through experience.”
She also says York College taught her balance and time management, essential skills she uses today.
And for Blaney, it all goes back to that one class.
“Today, the Special Events Planning class has given me the most help with my job,” she says. “As a teaching assistant for that class I had to get in front of the class and speak, I had to delegate and explain. I had to overcome any obstacles before and during the event and execution of the event.”
She took those lessons with her, and she also picked up a lifelong friend in Caralle.
York College is proud to offer one of the best Recreation and Leisure Administration programs in Pennsylvania. Within our recreation and leisure major, students can choose either a Recreation Management emphasis or a Recreational Therapy emphasis. Where will your degree in Recreation and Leisure Administration take you?