Renisha and Chandra Fontenot
Sisters Renisha and Chandra Fontenot love what they do.
“I get really excited about teaching people new things and helping them to see their potential, despite their perceived limitations,” says Renisha.
“It warms my heart to see goals being accomplished and new skills being developed while participating in activities that are enjoyable for the individual,” says Chandra.
Renisha first learned about the therapeutic recreation program at the School of Human Performance and Recreation while on a campus tour prior to her freshman year. The tour guide recommended the program and suggested she talk to Dr. Rick Green.
“Once I spoke with him, I was sold!” says Renisha.
Chandra was introduced to the program after her sister enrolled. “Once I found out that there was a program that embodied everything I had a passion for, I knew there was no other major for me. therapeutic recreation was it!” says Chandra.
Renisha started the program just one year before Chandra.
“We are both each other’s biggest cheerleaders, so it was good to pass on the knowledge that I had gained to her,” says Renisha.
“I also got a kick out of seeing who had the higher grades!” says Chandra.
While attending Southern Miss, Renisha and Chandra were Luckyday Scholars. They were also members of E.L.I.T.E (Empower, Lead, Inspire, Teach, Educate), the G.E.W.W. Crew, the Recreation Majors Association of Southern Miss and the College of Health Ambassadors.
Renisha was also involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the Afro American Student Organization. Chandra was a member of V.I.S.I.O.N. (Volunteers Impacting Society through Individual Outreach Now) and the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society.
Renisha attributes Dr. Green for the reason she chose therapeutic recreation. “I can’t think of any professor who was more encouraging and supportive of me and my journey to becoming the professional I am today,” says Renisha.
Chandra also thanks Dr. Green for playing an instrumental role in her success as a student and professional. “His teaching style and passion for the profession was encouraging. He is a huge advocate for therapeutic recreation services and in turn teaches his students to do the same,” says Chandra.
Thanks to their coursework, the Fontenot sisters felt prepared when embarking on their careers. Chandra is confident that knowledge gained through undergraduate coursework provided a foundation transferrable to any setting in therapeutic recreation.
Renisha agrees, “the classroom experiential learning techniques, along with the practicum and internship requirements gave me the hands on experience I needed to apply what I learned in the classroom to various settings.”
In December 2013, Renisha and Chandra earned their Master’s in Health and Human Services from Liberty University. Renisha plans to obtain a specialty certification to concentrate on a specific population within therapeutic recreation services. Chandra is now positioned to one day become a director of a therapeutic recreation facility.
Renisha says, “my ultimate goal would be for my sister and I to start our own community Therapeutic Recreation Program. We both have the same degree and we are both very passionate about our field.”
Chandra and Renisha were honored as Recreation Therapist of the Year by the Mississippi Recreation and Parks Association, Chandra in 2008 and Renisha in 2009.
Renisha’s advice for current students: “Pick a major that you can be passionate about. It should be something that excites you and makes you want to learn more even after you graduate. Don’t settle for the easy route, but pick a field that will challenge you as a person and as a professional. I would also encourage students to stay focused and be like a sponge and soak up all the information they can, while they can.”
Chandra’s advice for current students: “Take it all in! Everything in every class is important. I’ve found that those classes I thought were irrelevant to my future career are what I use the most today. Also, keep an open mind and use your practicum experiences to your advantage. This is a perfect time to really get a feel for what you really want to do when you graduate.”