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GIVING BACK: Clemons brings more recreation, programs to county’s youth

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By Bryan Marshall

From Little Dippers summer camp to Senior Bash, Tabatha Clemons hopes Grant County parks offers something for all ages to enjoy.

“We want to continue to look at programs and see where we can try to enhance the quality of life here,” she said. “Whether that’s just trying to keep our parks clean and beautiful and preserving the greenspace we have or expanded more, I’m always trying to keep my eyes open and embrace any opportunity we have.”

The 28-year-old Williamstown resident is heading into her fifth summer as Grant County Parks and Recreation director.

For her accomplishments, Clemons was selected for the 2011 Grant Countian of the Year award given annually by the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

“I was overwhelmed and surprised,” she said. “It was a great honor. I was thankful because somebody recognized the work that I do and the passion that I have for Grant County. I know the time it takes to nominate somebody. I’ve nominated people for those awards before.”

When Clemons was hired, she said the parks and rec department did not have any summer camps available for the community.

Through a brainstorming session, she partnered with North Key and area schools to start Summer Splash for children ages 7 to 11.

Since then, Grant County Community Education has helped run the week-long camp and last year a three-day Little Dippers camp was added for 4 to 6-year-olds.

Since its inception, more than 1,200 youth have attended Summer Splash to learn about arts and crafts, play games and enjoy the inflatable water slides.

“It’s grown into something that I can’t believe,” Clemons said about the camps. “The amount of participation we have from kids who come to camp, the amount of people who volunteer, whether it’s high school, college or adults, and all of our partners, has been great.”

A 2000 Grant County High School graduate, Clemons also has partnered with elementary schools in the Grant and Williamstown school districts for the Girls on the Run program.

A national organization, Girls on the Run is a  program for girls age 8 to 13 that combines training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts.

The goal of the program is to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.

“Almost any young girl can run,” Clemons said. “It’s not something we all love, but it’s something we can do. There are benefits to doing it. It helps you cope with problems. It helps you deal with stress. It helps you feel better about yourself.”

When Clemons first heard about the program, she wondered why it was not offered in Grant County.
In spring 2010, her persistence paid off and she helped pilot the program at two local schools — Sherman and Crittenden-Mt. Zion Elementary.

Clemons coached the SES team in its first season, but then her role shifted to trying to recruit coaches for the schools and be a liaison between the organization’s regional office.

The program has grown so much that now all local elementary schools have a team and more than 65 girls participated in the 5K race in downtown Cincinnati to finish the season.

“It’s really about the girls,” Clemons said. “Whether you’re the first girl or the last girl to come in on the race, we want you to have the same amount of people cheering you on. They get to make tiaras before the race. They get to do face paint and spray their hair. There’s all kind of fun before and after the race.”

Parks and recreation is not all Clemons is involved in.

She is a current member of the Emerge Kentucky Class of 2011, a leadership program for women who are thinking of running for political office.

Clemons applied for the program on the recommendation of Judge-Executive Darrell Link.

She said Emerge Kentucky helps her to develop extra leadership skills.

“I’m not announcing any candidacy today or anything like that,” said Clemons with a laugh. “It’s been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences that I’ve had. It’s been an awesome class.”

As part of the program, Clemons meets with 24 other women once a month for six months ending with her graduation in Frankfort in June.

So far, the class has studied topics such as financing a campaign, how to campaign, fundraising, polling and budgeting for outcomes.

“I still sometimes wonder what drives me to want to be in politics,” Clemons said. “I truly think it’s just knowing that there’s a way that we can make life better. You have to have legislators, county officials, city officials in order to make things go and make progress. Being able to have a direct impact on that is something I see now as a great future.”

As for the future of the parks and recreation in Grant County, Clemons said she is excited to see two new regulation soccer fields open off Eibeck Lane by the Veterans Cemetery North in Williamstown.

While the drought last summer and the recent downpour of rain have slowed the progress, she hopes the fields will be playable by the fall.
Clemons said she hopes to continue to offer new programming for the community, including this year with Backyard Game Nights at local schools.

“The thing that I’m probably most proud of is keeping an open mind toward what this community can accomplish and trying to embrace the opportunities that we have,” she said.

In a letter of support for Clemons’ nomination, 4-H agent Joyce Doyle said that Clemons goes beyond the expectations of her job duties plan and implement activities for all ages.

“Tabatha reaches every person in this county,” Doyle wrote. “Whether it is meeting to plan the Senior Bash or the community baby shower or planning a fun-filled summer for school aged children, she is involving so many different agencies to help with the event... She takes advantages of all the ‘experts’ in our county and uses all of them for the betterment of Grant County.”

When reflecting on the award, Clemons gives credit to her husband, Joe, and her family for her work ethic.

“I couldn’t be in this position without the direction of my family and my husband and the strength that they give me everyday,” she said.