Justin Fletcher’s month of change as he says goodbye to AU

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Justin Fletcher’s month of change as he says goodbye to AU

Justin Fletcher, a 2012 graduate of Ashland University, posing for a picture after his first solo flight.

Justin Fletcher, a 2012 graduate of Ashland University, posing for a picture after his first solo flight.

Submitted by Justin Fletcher

Justin Fletcher, a 2012 graduate of Ashland University, posing for a picture after his first solo flight.

Submitted by Justin Fletcher

Submitted by Justin Fletcher

Justin Fletcher, a 2012 graduate of Ashland University, posing for a picture after his first solo flight.

Zach Read, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE COLLEGIAN

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A month of change.

This is how Justin Fletcher, a 2012 graduate of Ashland University with a sports management degree, has described the last month of his life.

In the last month, Fletcher got married to his now-wife Kristen on Oct. 25 and then took off for their honeymoon. He arrived back in Ashland on Nov. 3 to finish his last two days as the Assistant Director of Aquatics and Student Development at AU’s Rec Center on Nov. 4-5.

On Nov. 7, Fletcher packed up his final belongings he had in Ashland and moved out to Phoenix, Ariz. where Kristen was waiting for him.

The question is, why is Fletcher moving all the way to Arizona?

“The tagline I’ve had in this whole experience is ‘leaving a career that I love, to pursue the dream,’” Fletcher said.

The dream is to become a pilot, something Fletcher has wanted to do since he was 7 years old.

Now, as Fletcher picks up his belongings and moves across the country with Kristen, he has the opportunity to pursue that lifelong dream as he continues his pilot training.

As a senior in high school, Fletcher did not forget that dream, but he also graduated high school in 2008, a time when the American airline industry hit rock bottom.

“With bankruptcy, they were furloughing pilots, the pay was low; so it just really wasn’t feasible then,” Fletcher said.

Submitted by Justin Fletcher
Justin Fletcher and his wife Kristen on their wedding day on Oct. 25, 2019.

As Fletcher put this dream of his in the hanger, it did not come into his radar again until a few years ago when he attempted to receive his private pilot license, but he said that was not good timing for him.

Fast forward to March of 2019 and the idea of taking another shot at this license stirred inside him once again. Fletcher was finally able to pursue that endeavor and earned his private pilot license over this last summer.

“We were dating at the time and it was something that she (Kristen) knew that I really had an interest in and passion for and something that could be a really good support for us and our future lives together,” Fletcher said.

While at Ashland as an undergrad, Fletcher was hired as a lifeguard at the rec center before he had even taken his first classes, which began his long journey at the rec center.

As a freshman, he came in as an athletic training major but after spending the summer after his freshman year at Philmont Scout Ranch, a 140,000 acre Boy Scout camp in northern New Mexico, he realized he enjoyed outdoor recreation much more than the athletic training lifestyle.

So he transferred. Second semester of sophomore year he started at Ohio University, but four days in realized it was not the right fit for him, so back to Ashland Fletcher went.

“I decided I didn’t like it; the classes were big, I didn’t have a job, I was four hours away from home, so I just decided I wanted to come back to Ashland,” Fletcher said.

Back at Ashland, Fletcher declared his major in sport management, got his job back at the rec center as a lifeguard and received his lifeguard instructor certification.

Fletcher was asked to be apart of the rec center audit team which allowed him to teach training courses which eventually led him to attend the Ohio Recreational Sports Association state workshop.

“It was at that conference where I decided this is what I wanted to do as a career, that was my “AHA” moment,” Fletcher said. “The people had passion, they were friendly and I loved being here at the rec center.”

Upon graduation, Fletcher went to grad school at Rowan University in New Jersey for his masters in higher education administration and was the Graduate Coordinator for Aquatics at their rec center.

Submitted by Justin Fletcher
Fletcher was formerly the Assistant Director of Aquatics and Student Development at AU’s Rec Center.

In April of 2014, he took a position as the Operations Coordinator for Campus Recreation at Clemson University before having the opportunity to return to Ashland in May of 2015.

“The timing worked out well for me, the timing worked out well for the department here and I interviewed and was able to come back home,” Fletcher said. “It was what I needed at that point for my professional career.”

Simply put, AU and the rec center has provided Fletcher with the greatest experience he could have asked for.

“It’s always been home and it’s always been a family. It’s really interesting and unique to come full circle on some things,” Fletcher said. “It’s been a unique and great opportunity to interact with all these members of the community on a student level but now as a professional level and build those relationships.”

As an Eagle Scout and such an avid boy scout, Fletcher can look back on every situation he has encountered in life and connect it back to something he learned through scouting.

As he leaves behind his legacy and impact at AU, Fletcher has advice for current AU students.

“Focus on the quality of experiences and not the quantity of experiences; find two or three things to be fully invested in that are going to help prepare you for life after graduation,” Fletcher said.

Whether it is sitting in a lifeguard chair in Ashland, flying an airline jet in a few years or skiing down a mountain in Flagstaff, Arizona, Ashland University will always have a place in Justin Fletcher’s heart.

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