When Erin Cross was a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, she got a part-time job as a coach for the local Parks and Recreation Department.
She coached everything from softball and basketball to volleyball and soccer.
It was at this time she realized her passion.
After graduating with a degree in recreation management and having a few other stops along the way, Cross is now the new village of Elm Grove recreation director.
She replaces Lauren Oliveri, who resigned in November to be the recreation supervisor in West Bend.
"Anything that deals with sports, I'm big into," Cross said.
But particularly, she's into the recreation aspect of sports and being involved in communities.
"One of the things I like about them is the non-competitive aspect of sports," Cross said. "We're not all going to be college athletes, but being a part of a team and the social aspect and living a healthy lifestyle you can take away from recreation sports without being super competitive."
After interning with the Village of Howard Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department in 2005, she began her career with the city of La Crosse, where she worked as a recreation specialist and focused on youth and recreational programming.
From there, Cross took a different route. She left Wisconsin for northern Madagascar to serve 27 months in the Peace Corps from 2007 to 2009.
With a passion for service and wanting to immerse herself in another culture, she worked in the Amber Mountain National Park on eco-tourism development projects.
There, she helped develop ways to increase tourism to a fairly remote area. She also worked with a local school and up to 80 students on projects.
Being a developing country, Cross said, she did most of her work by candlelight as her small cement house had no electricity or running water.
"I just enjoy the traveling aspect and wanted to get to know different cultures," Cross said. "I wanted a new experience."
After returning, Cross began working with the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee as the program director at the South Shore YMCA.
But she wanted to get back into municipal recreation.
"I always enjoyed being part of a recreation department and it was one step closer to the community, so I was looking forward to this (opportunity)," Cross said.
Because she will be working with many groups of all ages, her experiences, especially her time in with the Peace Corps, will translate to her new job, she said.
"Just with the overall communication skills I've learned," Cross said. "I worked in a different cultural setting and it teaches you to have an open mind, and when in a new culture like that you learn fast."
She lives in Oak Creek but wants to get to know Elm Grove on a "more personal level."
"I'm just eager to learn more about Elm Grove and get immersed into the community so I can serve the community better," Cross said.
If you go
WHAT: Elm Grove community invited to welcome new Recreation Director Erin Cross.
WHEN: 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Village Hall, 13600 Juneau Blvd.
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