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In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge with you. This issue, the conversation features Michael Kerrigan, the general manager of Cornerstone Aquatics Center.

1. How did you get started in the industry?

MK: I was very fortunate to get started in this field when I was in high school. My first job was with the YMCA as a camp counselor, swim instructor and youth sports coach. This was my first experience working in the community and it turned into a 28-year career at the YMCA. Over the course of nearly three decades I’ve been fortunate to advance myself into leadership positions. These leadership experiences have prepared me for my current role with HealthFitness as general manager of the Cornerstone Aquatic Center in West Hartford, Connecticut.

2. How would you go about describing recreation at your rec center?

MK: The HealthFitness team operates a primarily aquatic center for the town of West Hartford, Connecticut. The center offers a wide range of aquatic programming and recreational swimming to the surrounding communities. Most recently, I led a complete replacement of all fitness equipment, a redesign of our group exercise studio, and assisted the town in the redesign of four new family changing rooms and a front lobby remodel. The fitness refresh project now provides over 30 pieces of Technogym cardio and strength equipment, along with Technogym’s MyWellness Cloud technology. The aquatic center provides a home venue for the high school swim team and also local club teams. The aquatic center has a long-standing presence in the community and has been a staple in the community for teaching children how to swim, providing recreation for families and physical activity for members. In total, we serve just over 4,000 members.

3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?

MK: I am very proud of having a long career at the YMCA, where I was able to serve as a leader in the community. I am most proud of the fundraising efforts I was able to lead to support financial assistance for families that did not have the means to join the YMCA.

4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?

MK: It is a combination of finding the financial support for capital improvements to our facilities, and the ability to provide the services for all the needs of our community.

5. What is one lesson you have learned that other recreation professionals can learn from?

MK: Don’t make all the decisions on your own. It’s important to empower and include your staff, members and community leaders in the process. To build a strong community, everyone needs a voice.

Also, I started a program called “What’s Cooking.” It was an instructional class for second graders in which they made fun recipes and learned about the different food groups. Each week we ended class with a meal. The children left at the end of eight weeks with a recipe book of their own. It was an amazing program that encouraged parents to get involved, friendships were made and in our own way, we created a nurturing community each week among the participants. This is the program I look to as a model when developing new programs at the Cornerstone Aquatic Center.

6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know?

MK: My favorite singer is Van Morrison.

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