BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — A local parks and recreation leader says he wants to increase minority representation in the field through his newly founded national organization.

Dr. Samose L. Mays, Bryan County’s Parks and Recreation Department director, started the Minority Recreational Leadership Academy in October.

 Mays says he teamed up with several other parks and recreation leaders from places like South Carolina, Texas and California to kickstart the organization.

He says Minority Recreational Leadership Academy has been in the works since 2017.

The Minority Recreational Leadership Academy’s mission is to provide support to minority recreational professionals in areas including career advancement, academic empowerment, internships and mentoring within the parks and recreation industry.

Mays says prior to becoming a parks and recreation director, he had been a college dropout who later refocused himself to give his education another shot.

“I majored in parks and recreation, ended up getting a job in Bryan County in 2014 and quickly became a director,” Mays told WSAV NOW. 

“A couple years in, people started reaching out to me asking, you know, ‘how did you become director so fast being a minority,’ and how they could move up in parks and rec,” Mays said.

“I decided to found the Minority Recreational Leadership Academy to try to help minorities to rise in their career fields in parks and rec, and to learn how to be leaders and how to make a difference,” he said.

Mays says he’s uncertain of the exact reason for the apparent lack of minority representation in the field, but he hopes that he will change that through his organization.

“I want to be a person who can help others do the same things I’m doing but in a much shorter time,” Mays said. “It took me about 10 years to figure it out, but I think with people coming out of college with organizations like this and the leaders that we represent, I think they can help people move up a lot faster.”

Mays says there are plenty of potential career opportunities within the broad field of parks and recreation.

“You have maintenance, coordinators, athletic directors, athletic supervisors, summer camp staff and directors,” he said. 

“There are just so many different areas and people don’t realize it, and if you have a sports management degree, a recreational degree or a public administration degree, there’s a place for you in parks and recreation,” Mays said.

The Minority Recreational Leadership Academy is still in its early stages. Mays shares that this month, the organization started off with an introductory newsletter featuring the steering committee’s backgrounds and an overview of their mission and vision. 

It will be a quarterly publication that people can view and subscribe to on the organization’s website.

Mays says he and his fellow leaders will begin accepting members in about six months.

“One thing about our organization is we want to know what our members can do for the profession, not necessarily what we can do for the members, so that’s why we started with a steering committee,” he explained, adding, “We want to get active working members that want to make a difference and want to change the face of parks and recreation.”

Mays says that while the parks and rec field in general has lacked diversity, he has made efforts to build up a team in Bryan County that comes from a variety of backgrounds.

“We make sure that we hire the most qualified people for the jobs, and if you focus on the most qualified, you’ll always have a diverse population,” Mays said.