African-American Partnership Cabinet Member Spotlight:
Angela Anderson
Controller, Southern Education Foundation

AAP: Tell us about your role at Southern Education Foundation and how you impact the company’s strategic goals.

Angela: Our mission at the Southern Education Foundation is to advance creative solutions to ensure equity and excellence in education for students of color and low-income students in the South. As controller, I help to ensure that our organization remains fiscally responsible and maintains accurate financial data. As we apply for various grants, the data I help provide demonstrates that our organization has been a good steward of the funds we have been entrusted to handle.

AAP: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in finance?

Angela: There are rewarding aspects of working in finance. Your role requires that you have an overview of everything going on within the organization. You must understand funding priorities and return on investments from two viewpoints: financial as well as how people are impacted. Though you are working with numbers, you have to remember just numbers alone won’t tell the full story.

AAP: How did you navigate a transition from the for profit to the nonprofit sector?

Angela: The for profit and nonprofit sectors are very similar. Numbers are numbers regardless of where you work. There are revenues and expenses. The major difference with the nonprofit sector is your work benefits stakeholders not stockholders. Stakeholders include individuals and organizations that support Southern Education Foundation as well as the individuals that are served by Southern Education Foundation.

AAP: What sparked your interest in philanthropy and why did you become an AAP Cabinet member?
Angela: I started volunteering for community organizations at the age of 18. After entering the workforce full time in my early 20’s, I saw contributing my time, my talent, and my tenth as a privilege. For the last 20 years, I’ve served organizations focusing on women and children and mental health. I became an AAP member while working for Genuine Parts Company in 2014. What I love about AAP is the ability to see exactly where your dollars go. You can also give your time and talent by volunteering directly with those you are supporting financially, which is very rewarding!

AAP: Who is your favorite American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?
Angela: The first woman president and alumna of Johnson C. Smith University, Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy is my favorite American trailblazer and source of inspiration. I had the privilege of taking several of Yancy’s courses at Georgia Institute of Technology. She inspired me to do my best, be myself and show integrity regardless of what those around me say and do.

AAP & Tocqueville Society Member Spotlight: Myra Bierria

AAP and Tocqueville Society Member Spotlight
Myra Bierria
Vice President and Corporate Secretary, Southern Company

Tell us about your role at Southern Company and how you impact the company’s strategic goals?
Myra: My role is Vice President and Corporate Secretary for the Southern Company. One of my core responsibilities is to provide legal and administrative support to the Board of Directors and executive management. My day-to-day activities can range from providing legal advice to the Board of Directors or executive management concerning corporate governance matters to planning logistics down to the last detail for a Board meeting. Southern Company is committed to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities. Sound corporate governance policies and practices are an important part of Southern’s strategy, consistent with the increasing focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters as they relate to the energy industry.

What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in corporate law?
Myra: Earning a law degree is a significant investment of time and resources, but the education and development of analytical skills are well worth it. If you can take time off after undergrad and work in either a law office or corporate environment, it may be helpful in determining whether a law degree is something you really need or desire. As far as practicing corporate law specifically, I’d advise a person to get as much experience as possible at a law firm before moving in-house to a corporate law department. The diverse mix of clients one has the opportunity to advise in a law firm prepares potential in-house lawyers to handle the wide range of legal issues that may come up in a corporation.

If you were to choose another career path, what would it be?
Myra: If I could change my career, I would choose to be an American History professor. I enjoy teaching others and am fascinated with what we can learn from our country’s past and how lessons learned can and will impact our future.

What sparked your interest in philanthropy and why did you become a United Way Tocqueville Society member?
Myra: I was raised in a working-class family. Although an excess of resources was not the norm, my parents taught us to be charitable with our time and whatever financial contribution we could spare. The United Way is one of the first organizations I can recall providing small but, to our family, meaningful donations. Further, the 100 Black Men’s Young Black Scholars program as well as the Girl Scouts program would not have been available to me without the generosity of others. Each of these programs played a critical role in my college and career choices. Being a member of the United Way Tocqueville Society is a logical way for me to pay it forward. Fortunately for me, my company had a step-up program that allowed me to join the Tocqueville Society early in my career and increase my donations over time.

Who is your favorite American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?
Myra: My favorite American trailblazer for the longest time has been Justice Thurgood Marshall. More recently, I’ve added First Lady Michelle Obama. Both Marshall and Obama overcame extreme adversity with success not just as individuals but as public figures as part of a larger organization with a significant positive impact on our society. In the legal field, Justice Marshall successfully litigated pivotal desegregation cases in front of our country’s highest court, which he would later serve on. He persevered despite the challenging racial tension of his times and in spite of threats to his personal safety. Similarly, First Lady Obama as part of the executive administration and as a high-profile educated career woman and mother of two served our country with dignity and grace despite unimaginable obstacles.  I’m inspired by her resolve and determination to have a positive impact on the health of children while serving as a role model for women.

African-American Partnership (AAP) Cabinet members and professionals from around Atlanta recently volunteered as mentors for the Georgia State Early College Program Professional Luncheon. Through 9 workshops over a 3-day period, the volunteers shared details of their college experience and career path to approximately 100 dual enrolled high school students.

By taking college courses in the 11th and 12th grades, these students are already ahead of the pack. Nonetheless, it can be a stressful period. The career exposure from seasoned professionals is helpful to students as they determine their own career path. Mentors were extremely impressed with the desire these young adults have to become successful. Several students engaged mentors in dialogue about non-traditional revenue opportunities like wholesale real estate sales and paper stock market trading to supplement income.

Dr. Tene Davis, Associate Director of the Early College Program at Georgia State University, explained that the professionals that participated in the luncheon are “the light at the end of the tunnel” for the students that are taking on the challenge of being a high school and college student at the same time. The students came from early college program high schools at Therrell High School, Maynard Jackson High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Carver High School, and Decatur Early College Academy.

When asked why he always makes himself available to participate in mentoring and networking events, Hugh Rowden, SVP at Wells Fargo Company, spoke passionately about the importance for African-American professional men to be there for the next generation. “Once you reach a certain level in your career, your platform is not about you,” said Hugh.

Zaria Echols, one of the dual enrolled students at the luncheon, found the sessions very helpful. She “learned that I should be open to change; and I realized that because of technology, some jobs may be done by robots in the future.” She now sees that she should be more open to travel and study abroad programs. After graduating she wants to become a Radiologist. Currently, she is a junior at Maynard Jackson High School.

AAP Cabinet Member Spotlight: Troy Felder
Human Resources Manager, Genuine Parts Company

AAP: Tell us about your role at Genuine Parts and how you impact the company’s strategic goals.

Troy: I have been with GPC for 5 years, the last 2 years have been in my current role of Sr. HRBP, where I currently support GPC IT & Financial Shared Services. I impact GPC’s strategic human capital objectives, by partnering with our senior leaders on solutions in talent acquisition, retention and succession planning for a high performing workforce. As a certified facilitator, I am actively involved in learning & development activities that also encourages employees to take ownership of their careers. This type approach to career planning is beneficial to them personally and to the organization.

AAP: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in human resources (or more specific aspect of HR)?

Troy: My professional career began in retail management, before I transitioned to HR. That experience taught me the importance of building and maintaining relationships. This remains my philosophy as a HRBP. As a business partner, I would encourage someone starting their HR career to do more than manage policies and procedures but manage relationship and seek exposure. I once read that, “60% of your career success depends on who you know and more importantly, who knows what you know.

AAP: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?

Troy: Income: financial education and job readiness training specifically. I have toured the City of Refuge 4 or more times. I was there when the first AutoTech class started in the NAPA training center and hired one of the first graduates in a NAPA retail store. To hear that programs have been added in home security and pest control are exciting and gratifying!

AAP: Who is your favorite African-American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?

Troy: Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall – Justice Marshall accomplished so many firsts in his life. I am often told; I could be a lawyer in a different life. There are many quotes that come to mind, when reflecting on our current affairs. Instead, I will lean towards the work of AAP: children & communities. “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” Thurgood Marshall

On a warm September afternoon in the beautiful gardens of the Historic Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta’s West End community, thirteen middle- and high school-age Atlanta males celebrated an incredible feat—releasing original works as published authors.

“Boys, Books, & Brotherhood,” a special initiative led by Atlanta-based nonprofit, Raising Expectations, inspired teenage boys living on Atlanta’s westside to improve their reading and writing abilities while learning critical thinking and communication skills. The United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African American Partnership funded the initiative which provided participants with age-appropriate books and positive, male mentors.

“It is important for our young men to explore the world and their emotions. Boys, Books, & Brotherhood provided them with the space and opportunity to do that through reading and writing,” shared Raising Expectations co-founder Maria Armstrong.

“Boys, Books, & Brotherhood” participants worked closely with volunteers from the Eta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity during the initiative which involved regular meetings after school and some Saturdays. Alpha Phi Alpha volunteers read books with the boys, discussed readings with them, and provided ongoing support and mentorship during the boys’ creative writing process.

At the book release party, longtime Raising Expectations participant, 12th grader Michael Thomas, expressed the gravity of the event with attendees. “The images I see of young men that look like me in the news are not usually positive. Too often, I see young men involved in crime or being killed for no reason. Today is different. Today, we are celebrating thirteen young African American men who are now published authors!” he shared with an enthusiastic crowd that included parents, community leaders, and supporters.

Through a partnership with the nonprofit Young Authors Publishing, “Boys, Books, & Brotherhood” participants were able to write their own books and have them published. Titles like “Jirou’s Journey to Friendship,” “Never Give Up,” and “Back Off, Bully!” provided a glimpse into the lives and experiences of each young man. Their writings expose challenges, goals, wisdom, and reflections of their own lives while inspiring readers.

Proceeds from book sales go into education fund accounts held by Citizens Trust Bank for each young man. Funds can be used for expenses associated with post-secondary education or credentialed career training programs. For a listing of books written by “Boys, Books & Brotherhood” participants and ways to purchase, visit

AAP is committed to addressing the achievement gap and improving outcomes for African-American boys and young men in the metro area through partnerships that increase educational opportunities and pathways to employment. Over the years, our efforts have expanded from a laser focus on literacy to include additional learning opportunities targeted to support youth’s overall academic achievement and future success. We have seen the profound impact that caring professionals, like you can have both for you and the students. This fall, AAP is launching a pilot volunteer program of tailored volunteer opportunities.

As our dedication to this work continues, AAP and United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteerism team have come up with a menu of volunteer opportunities with AAP’s current Build-A-Library Sites.

We can organize interactive projects for groups of 10 to 25 people. Opportunities can be customized for the company depending the career area. For example, a financial company could present a workshop on money management for young adults or a team of software developers could present about writing code.  Your company can host a group of students for a day of shadowing on October 15 or November 5 or you can travel to an agency like Delta Air Lines chose to do in this video.

To participate, please fill out our project request form to find an available date.

African-American Partnership Member Spotlight: Janice Robinson
Executive Director of Volunteer Involvement Program (VIP)

AAP: Tell us about your role at United Way of Greater Atlanta and how you impact the company’s strategic goals?
Janice: As the Executive Director of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteer Involvement Program, my role is to develop and manage the execution of a Board Governance curriculum for corporate and community volunteers, and nonprofit agency board and staff across greater Atlanta. VIP alumni serve to strengthen nonprofit organizations throughout Greater Atlanta and beyond by providing well-trained board members.

AAP: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in community engagement?
Janice: You must have a love for people and the community. Community engagement is a strategic process that focuses on the practices and processes required to maintain a healthy and responsive community. It is a science and an art and when done well, it is a joy.

There are six key skills needed to be successful: 1) people 2) communications 3) project management 4) organizational 5) negotiation 6) data analysis.

If you possess these and are motivating and persuasive, then this work could be for you.

AAP: How have you seen VIP change during your time at United Way?
Janice: VIP has grown from a program that was offered annually and trained 35 leaders to our current model of five sessions annually, including summer, and training upwards of 150 leaders. The leaders have become more diverse, formerly they were mainly corporate leaders; they are now, corporate, nonprofit and community leaders and those that are currently serving on a board to those wanting to start a nonprofit.

We have also developed a customized training, boardDigest, to provide in-house trainings for corporations throughout greater Atlanta.

AAP: What is your favorite quote?
Janice: To whom much is given, much will be required.

African-American Partnership Cabinet Spotlight: Elaina L. Ford
Global Diversity Engagement Leader, Kimberly-Clark Corporation

AAP: Tell us about your role at Kimberly Clark and how you impact the company’s strategic goals?
Elaina: As Global Diversity Engagement Leader for Kimberly-Clark, I help lead our company’s efforts to build and retain a diversified workforce that reflects our consumers. In this role, I lead our Employee Resource Groups, Community Relations strategy and Diversity Recruitment efforts. In addition, I partner with business units within Kimberly-Clark to set and implement effective Diversity & Inclusion strategies.

AAP: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in diversity and community engagement?
Elaina: At most companies, the Diversity & Inclusion and Community Engagement Teams have a small number of people and it can be challenging at times to find entry-level opportunities on these teams. Typically this is because people on these teams have vast experience in these areas and they rarely leave because the work is so intrinsically rewarding. This was the situation I faced. I was very passionate about these areas, but I found it challenging to “break in”.

If you are interested in a career in Diversity & Inclusion or Community Engagement, my advice is to build your exposure, knowledge, and credibility through your volunteer efforts. Participate & lead one of your company’s Employee Resource Groups. Volunteer to help with your company’s diversity recruiting team and community service efforts like the United Way Campaigns. Volunteer in the community and if you feel especially drawn to a specific cause or organization, find ways to contribute in a significant way like serving on their board or co-leading a key initiative.

AAP: How have you seen your industry change during your career?
Elaina: Digital disruption has significantly changed the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) industry in how and where connect with consumers. Gone are the days in which a CPG company could place a TV or print advertisement and expect to reach the majority of their target audience. We are now in the Digital Age in which consumers are informed, connect with one another, are entertained in various and disparate channels within the digital space. This fragmented landscape presents a challenge for companies to effectively and efficiently connect with a critical mass of their target audience.

AAP: Why is philanthropy important? How do you give back to the community?
Elaina: Philanthropy is very important as the work helps improve wellbeing of humankind. I recall the quote “To whom much is given, much is required”. I personally feel God has blessed me with so much and because of that, it is my responsibility to “pay it forward”. I give back to the community through my public service sorority, my church, my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop and school, United Way initiatives, serving on non-profit boards, volunteering for various service projects, and just plain helping when I see someone in need.

AAP: Who is your favorite African-American trailblazer that serves as a source of inspiration to you?
Elaina: My favorite African-American trailblazer in servant leadership as of late is Robert F. Smith who gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Morehouse College and surprised them by paying off the student loans of the roughly 400 graduates. He gave of his treasure to truly impact generations to come. I believe that he is setting a resonating example to other high-earning individuals to give back in meaningful and significant way. Very inspirational.

It’s Friday morning at Atlanta Technical College. The hallways are lined with volunteers, gathered for the African-American Partnership’s (AAP) Day of Service.

The volunteers’ mission today: encourage and inspire a future generation of African-American leaders to learn more about careers related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM).

AAP, an affinity group from United Way of Greater Atlanta, has been committed to positively impacting the community since 2000. Promoting student achievement for middle school and high school students is the cause the group advocates for primarily.

Ovie Mughelli, former All-Pro fullback for the Atlanta Falcons and current board member for United Way of Greater Atlanta, stands amongst the crowd of gathered volunteers. He’s been selected to deliver a word of encouragement before the day’s event begins.

“Don’t run sideways,” says Mughelli. “Run at the problem. Run at the adversity. Run at that challenge.”

He wears this message close to his chest.

Before his father became a successful doctor, Mughelli and his family had to first survive the financial trials of his father’s medical school program. During this time, he and his siblings relied upon Spam for food and shared a single-sized bedroom.

In the NFL, adversity reared its head as a Ray Lewis-sized dilemma.

Getting knocked down, both financially and physically, was all a part of the process though.

Through hard work and determination, Mughelli endured a trying childhood and received a scholarship to attend Wake Forest University, where he earned a degree in health and exercise science.

After graduating, he weathered hard knocks from Ray Lewis and other defensive powerhouses and was selected to two different All-Pro teams during his NFL career.

And while hard work was key, he emphasizes that he didn’t do it alone.

“I’m here because of my mentors,” says Mughelli. “I’m here because of the coaches, the teachers, the pastors, the friends, my parents who all poured into me.”

And that’s what has brought volunteers out for today’s Day of Service. It’s an opportunity to be the mentor that a child needs to perceive and achieve greatness themselves one day.

The mentees have gathered from all over the Atlanta area, arriving by the bus load from local organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Raising Expectations Incorporated, Atlanta Cares Mentoring and, notably, the University System of Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative (AAMI).

According to the University System of Georgia, the Initiative is dedicated to providing “an integrated program model of academic and social tools that support students around adopting a positive mindset to successfully complete classes, elevate their cumulative GPAs, matriculate through each academic level and graduate.”

In the year 2018, AAMI bolstered its efforts by incorporating a mentorship component into the work that the initiative sought to accomplish. Combined with AAP’s commitment to promoting student achievement, the Day of Service was a perfect fit to accelerate both organizations’ goals.

The mentors for the Day of Service are established, working professionals. Many come from backgrounds in engineering, accounting, finance and business management.

One volunteer, Temika Jatta, is an employee for the local natural gas provider, Gas South. She believes the Day of Service is a beneficial experience in more ways than one.

“I love helping people,” says Jatta. “But the opportunity to influence or help a young adult who is African American to understand that there is more to life than just what they see in front of them is good for everybody.”

Over the course of the day, the volunteers guided their mentees through various workshops curated by local Atlanta businesses and individuals who have already found success in the STEAM field. These individuals can be the guiding light for burgeoning young professionals who haven’t been exposed to these career opportunities yet.

“It creates that whole perfect utopia,” says Jatta.

Some of the workshops included representatives from Adobe, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Georgia Power and even United Way of Greater Atlanta’s creative team.

Workshops covered the principles of design, careers in digital technology and marketing, financial literacy, tech-enabled solutions and more.

Once the workshops finished up, the students and their mentors were then allowed to participate in a STEAM-oriented career expo. Attendees were able to brush shoulders with robotics equipment and tools for design that are used in everyday work for STEAM professionals.

As the day came to a close, Mughelli again took the stage to leave the Day of Service’s participants with a powerful reminder.

“Don’t be afraid when somebody tries to block your path and tells you, ‘You can’t do it,’” says Mughelli. “Build the mind of a champion and you’ll be just that.”

More than 300 people gather at technical college to discuss STEAM-related careers

By Nadia Pressley

More than 300 people gathered at Atlanta Technical College last month to celebrate and inform young African-American men about the endless possibilities of working in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) related careers.

The AAP Day of Service event brought together 139 young people to learn about topics from robots to tech, from Atlanta’s best and brightest companies thanks to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership (AAP).

AAP is a group of donors who all share a common passion in philanthropy. Their goal is to engage underrepresented members in United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 13-county region through volunteerism, networking, advocacy and professional development.

AAP members and prospective members were paired with students for the Day of Service to foster a mentorship between the two. AAP Director Bryan Vinson said this event is the perfect way to show members “a slice of what their investment looks like.”

Students participated in two career-based, STEAM workshops followed by a career fair with over 20 companies including Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Company.

“The motivation behind our investment in these students is to get them excited about academics, excited about learning, to broaden their perspective on what their futures could be in terms of career, college, whatever their next steps are,” Vinson said.

Among the workshop presenters was Christopher Jones, production artist in the Marketing and Communications Department at United Way. Jones hosted a workshop called, “Design Your World” to expose students to careers in design.

“I enjoy interacting with students and sharing information about what I do as a career because I know that there are not a lot of examples that they can look to,” Jones said. “Even if a student decides to pursue a different path, I feel as if I’ve done my part if I’ve at least helped them to see that there are options beyond what they may have seen or considered before. The sky is the limit and I hope to inspire the next generation to aim higher.”

A 12th-grade student who attended the Day of Service “loved the interaction between the mentors and mentees.” They appreciated how presenters were open and honest and let them “know there will be challenges, but we all have the strength to overcome those challenges.”

Another eighth-grade student enjoyed having “African Americans in my groups,” and they found the event “really inspiring.”

Vinson said, through the Powering the Potential of African-American boys and young men investments, a campaign that pushes academic achievement, the group has raised more than $500,000 that they use to invest in seven different after-school programs across the Atlanta area, focusing mainly in zones where the Child Well-Being scores are the lowest. This event helped shine a light on just a little of what they do daily during the school year through their after-school programs.

Vinson said the event fosters a special connection between donors and students — each of the students received robotics kits from United Way at the end of the event.

“These are sort of two symbiotic groups who need each other. Our AAP donors are senior level African American professionals from a wide group of companies and industries,” Vinson said. “Why not expose them to these youth in need so that they can see people who look like them doing careers they have never even dreamed of?”

“It’s bringing these two groups together and letting them benefit from their time together.”

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