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High school students find opportunities in leadership, employment, service, and fun at the Naperville Park District

Throughout the 50 years since the Naperville Park District’s founding in 1966, teens have assisted in the District’s mission and activities, investing their energy and talent in planning positive events for their peers, serving as lifeguards at Centennial Beach, or volunteering at events such as Halloween Happening.

The Early Days
Even before the Park District acquired the Barn Recreation Center in 1969, area youth had established their leadership in working to construct the Barn as a teen center and then running dances and events at the facility.

Photos of pages from the 1966 Naperville High School Yearbook, courtesy of

In 1969 the Park District also assumed responsibility for Centennial Beach, where high school and college students already were serving as lifeguards, swim instructors, and attendants. Each year since then, these enthusiastic, well-trained summer employees have helped provide a safe environment for thousands of Beach goers.

Centennial Beach, 1969

Beach staff in 1981  

Youth Ambassadors

Recognizing the benefits of involving high school students in planning recreation for their peers, Steve Born, a former park commissioner, helped form the Park District Youth Ambassadors in 2000. The advisory group continues to meet several times each year to plan fun activities for students from all five Naperville area high schools.

The Park District held the annual Youth Ambassadors Leadership conference on February 22, 2016 in Community Hall at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center.  More than 100 students attended, representing Naperville North High School, Naperville Central High School, and Neuqua Valley High School. Dr. Robert McBride, Jr., Principal, Neuqua Valley High School, spoke about what it takes to be a leader. Students broke into interest groups to exchange ideas from the different high schools concerning leading student clubs, such as yearbook, mentoring, drama, etc.  One of the co-presidents of Youth Ambassadors, Zach Benaitis, is a senior at Naperville North High School and has been involved in Youth Ambassadors since his first year.  “The Leadership Conference is the activity I enjoy the most,” said Zach. “It helps to meet with other schools to get new ideas about how to lead our clubs.” 


 Dr. McBride, Principal at Neuqua Valley High School, addresses 
students at the Youth Ambassadors Leadership Conference on Feb. 22, 2016


 Zach Benaitis, NNHS senior and YA Co-President


Students discuss common leadership questions
 in various clubs, activities at the 2016 Leadership Conference

Youth Ambassadors plans several other activities each year for their peers in all five Naperville area high schools, including dodgeball tournaments, basketball tournaments, and Battle of the Bands. The 2016 Battle of the Bands will take place on May 6 at Central Park.


Battle of the Bands showcases talented bands from Naperville area high schools.

Fort Hill Activity Center

The new Fort Hill Activity Center, due to open in August 2016, will provide community indoor space for youth activities.  “We anticipate that the building will be used often by teens for our drop-in open gym programs, for example, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics, and for athletic leagues and special events that are planned for that age group,” said Director of Recreation Brad Wilson. “Teens also will be able to improve their health and wellness year-round through use of the fitness area and walk/jog track.”

Architect’s rendering of the Fort Hill Activity Center

Current Opportunities for High School Students at the Naperville Park District

Part-time Employment. The Naperville Park District has a variety of part-time, seasonal jobs for high school students, as evidenced at the March 5 Job Fair. Those who were not able to attend are encouraged to check out the available positions on our website and apply soon.

Hiring managers talked with interested applicants at the March 5, 2016 Job Fair

Volunteering. High school students provide invaluable help as volunteers at many Naperville Park District events, including Halloween Happening, Santa House, Spring Egg-stravaganza, and more. Learn more and register as a volunteer here.

Volunteers help set up for the 2015 Spring Egg-stravaganza

Participating in recreation.  High school students can find a variety of recreation opportunities each season at the Naperville Park District. Whether it’s a Centennial Beach membership, golf lessons and leagues, high school co-ed soccer (available in autumn), Élan Dance Company, or acting in a Magical Starlight Theatre production, the Park District has something for everyone. Check out the latest programs in the 2016 Spring Program Guide.  With our new online registration system, it’s easy to sign up anytime from your mobile device.

As the Naperville Park District celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, we want to thank high school students for the many ways they have contributed to the success of the Park District. We look forward to their involvement in creative new ways in the future.

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

Our Mission
We provide recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community.
Our Vision
To be a national leader in parks and recreation providing and promoting high quality experiences and facilities at a great value to our community.
Core Values
Health and Wellness, Environmental Education, Stewardship and Sustainability, Community Enrichment, Public Safety, Accessibility, Personal Growth and Enrichment.
© 2021 Naperville Park District