Community Voices - Ian Yarber

Posted by Emily Belle
Emily Belle
Emily Belle is a second year Environmental Studies major at Oberlin College. Ori
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on April 17, 2015 in Community Voices

Ian YarbergIan Yarber is the head of the Recreation Department of Oberlin. He oversees recreation-related activities around in the town. He was born in Oberlin, and returned here about 17 years ago. Ian has a three year-old daughter.

Q: What comes to mind when you think of Oberlin?

A: I???ve always thought of it as a small, cosmopolitan town. Because you have all these diverse people. The college brings in a lot of diversity. But even a diverse community. I can say you can see the diversity on the campus, just like I can see the diversity in the community. A lot of small communities don???t have that diversity, and Oberlin does.

I think Oberlin???s always been cutting-edge, on a number of things, whether it???s support of education: not just the college but the schools, the local schools???Just the way the community supports endeavors for young people. They continue to support that environment that helps young people ??? children, college students???just be able to come and be educated, and go out into the world. To me, Oberlin gives that whole???rapping our arms around the community and helping it grow, and set the foundation for life. Oberlin???s college, and community sets the foundation for people to move on in life. I see it as a big family environment. With all families, you have your own issues within your own families. But still to me, it has that family environment. I think it???s a nurturing community for people.

Q: What sort of actions is the Recreation Department involved in that relate directly to the well-being of the environment?

A: We have a recreation complex where we sell concessions. One of the first things we did was look at, in selling concessions, that we weren???t gonna use styrofoam to serve food and stuff in. We also have recycle bins, so we try to recycle???not  only water bottles, but we try to recycle the cardboard. We try to do it in the best friendly, environmental way. So we have no styrofoam, we have no glass, and most of the plastics we use are recyclable plastics. We try to use things that can be recycled, that are not as harmful to the environment that way.

Our afterschool program???the things that we serve them, we try to do locally grown. If not locally grown, it???s purchased at IGA, so we try to not have a big footprint on the environment. If we purchase things, [we] try to purchase them locally in terms of products that we might use in our programs???knowing that, part of the carbon footprint in trucking things in and out. So, as much as we can do it locally without that, we try to.

Q: What different programs does the Rec Department oversee? What sorts of things go on in these programs?

A: The city has an afterschool program, that we run at Eastwood Elementary School. It???s for kindergardeners through 5th grade. Our afterschool program goes Mondays, Wedneday, and Fridays. Just three days a week, afterschool until 6 PM. So at that program???we help them with their homework. We give them a snack. They do games. We do try to get them out moving???especially if it???s nice enough. They go on the playground. We might do kickball games in the gym. We might do jumprope in the gym. We do arts crafts games. You know, a lot of those things.

The Rec Complex???I oversee the scheduling of games out there. Who plays???where, when and why. That???s baseball, softball games, for kids. That could be baseball, softball games for adults. Soccer games. Leagues. Practices. Tournament games???you have about 220 soccer games a year out there, and you???re doing about 400 and some-odd baseball and softball games out there.

I oversee city programs???afterschool program. A small kids wrestling program, introduction to wrestling program. Youth basketball, which is probably about 7 or 8 weeks on Saturdays: we teach the fundamentals of basketball. We do a basketball camp in the summertime for two weeks from nine to noon for boys  and girls.

Our largest program is our Playground Program ??? Summer Playground Program ??? which is a six week summer program. Registered this past year was about 270 kids. In that camp, they do arts, craft, games. They go bowling, certain days. They go swimming every Friday, for the six weeks???They do a lot in that program.

Then we have a program for teens called the Open Gym Program. Teenagers are something that we???re always wrestling with, to try to engage them???They???re just a changing group. And then we do other programs, like a bootcamp in the park???an earth day 5K run in April. And we???re trying to revamp that, to add more things. We???re looking at other programs.

Q: In thinking about sustainability, and the social health and well-being of the community, what do you think these programs give to Oberlin kids?

A: I look at the Playground Camp. Our Playground Program goes five days a week, from 10 AM to 3 PM. That is a large chunk of time. I think without that there would be a lot of kids left, really, unsupervised. Left to sit at home at their own devices and come up with probably good things, and not so good things, to do. As opposed now, they???re in a supervised, pretty much controlled environment, with trained staff who can make sure the things they???re doing is safe.

We do so many things with them???parents might not have been able to take them to splash zone, once a week in the summer. They might not have been able to go bowling, once a week. They might not have been to go to Birds of Prey???as opposed to a child getting to sit there with their friends, and get to see an Eagle, and a Hawk, and an Owl. Just the different things that keep them active and engaged. I think that program brings value to the community.

Our basketball camp, we call a mini-hoop camp???they can come to a basketball camp, learn some basketball skills, have some fun, and get a basketball shirt, a trophy???

Also, some of those statistics show that kids that are in afterschool program do a lot better in school, because they do their homework and they do get help with their homework.

So, I see value in all of it. I see that it???s just helping???a lot of those programs, help with...the fiber of the community???taking care of the community. Having things that children can do incorporated within this small community of Oberlin???that they can get all those things here. I see value in it. And I???ve told people ??? sports are one thing, a basketball camp is one thing. But I also tell people: ???I can teach life lessons within those sports.??? How to be a team player. How to be able to deal with wins and losses. You gonna win some, you gonna lose some. You gonna deal with losses in your life, because losses are gonna happen in your life. So, to deal with those things, those emotions, and tell them that, ???This is all apart of growing up???as you walk through life???you know, the hard work. I see children that come there [basketball camp], that can???t make a layup. And in two weeks, they can make that layup. There are those things that I see value in???in the community, for the children of this community.

Q: Do these programs promote any personally healthy habits for Oberlin kids?

A: We talk to kids about healthy choices. And that???s one of the biggest things. We try to encourage that in afterschool, in our snacks. We do maybe baked potato chips, but we also do carrots and vegetables???You start talking about healthy food choice. Because if they go home, it???s probably gonna be chips, candy. It could just be candy, and just junk food all-together. As opposed to???we???re introducing some of them to carrots, and celery, and unsweetened tea???as opposed to pop, and some of the other things that they could be getting at home.

And I do hear some of the parents say, ???I don???t know how you did this, but my child has asked me to pick up baby carrots at the grocery store! And he???s never wanted carrots before. I guess he???s eating it there, and he likes them, so now I get them.??? So, I do know that there is success in that. That there???s change in the thought of some of the kids???When they sit at the table, the peers eat that: ???Oh I want that, I want grapes or whatever.??? ???Oh, I want grapes.??? So if they see their peers eating it this way, a lot times they don???t wanna be left out of that peer group, they eat the grapes, and the baby carrots. So, it helps, if they find out that grapes are sweet, they???re not nasty ??? and grapes and oranges are not bad for you ??? they???re pretty good.

Q: Do you see ways in which what the Oberlin Recreation Department offers benefits the sustainability of the community as a whole, beyond the kids?

A: There are those things that I see value in, in the community, for the children of this community???And the value not just for the children, but the values in the parents too: that they have a comfort zone enough that they can leave a child here, and not worry about the,m because they know they???re in a fun, safe enviroment. They can go to work, or wherever, and pick them up at a certain time???and know that their child is gonna be fine. So there???s value in that, too. Because a parent???whether they???re working full-time or seasonal or part-time???might say, ???Oh, I gotta get back by noon to pick my child up, and how I???m gona do this? I???m working over here in Avon. How am I gonna get back here and get back to work? You know, I can???t.??? Then you have to give them the choice of ??? can I work this job? But when the community is such that they say ???Ok, I don???t have to worry about that. They???re gonna be able to go to this program, and I???m off work when that program is over?????? All those programs, there???s value in the community.

And it???s the coming together. Back here at Park Street Park ??? for years I wanted them to have a new playground, and they would say, ???What???s a new playground gonna do for that park???? And I would say, ???Well, it???s more than just a playground. It???s where kids come to play, and where a parent takes a kid, they get to meet other parents. It???s a bringing of the community together.??? It???s more than just a playground. When you have a public park and a playground, it???s bringing the community together around play???Or, ???if I can bring my younger kid to play, and my twelve year-old can go over there and shoot hoops, and the library???s right behind me, I can get a book and sit at a picnic table, read my book while my kids play and get some exercise.??? That???s some of those things.

Q: What would be your message to the Oberlin community, in thinking about a healthy and sustainable lifestyle?

A: I keep this little thing on my desk ??? ???Get out and play.???

Just because you don???t play baseball, softball, tennis, golf--doesn???t stop you from getting out and playing. You can get out and throw a frisbee. You don???t have to be athletic to do a lot of things. I tell kids all the time: ???Just because you???re playing basketball doesn???t mean you have to be trying out for a team.??? You could just shoot, for exercise. Some of those things???some fun, exercise, a game???Those are some of the things that I really like. Just to get ???em back, you know??????Get out and play.???

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Emily Belle is a second year Environmental Studies major at Oberlin College. Originally from Ithaca, New York, she loves waterfalls, woodland adventures, and growing and eating tasty food. Emily works in the Oberlin community as a Bonner Leader and America Reads Tutor.


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