Troy Parker, Assistant Director of Corporate Relations at United Way of Greater Atlanta, shares with us his passion for United Way’s work in LGBTQ+ spaces, and why it means so much to him.

Tell us about your role at United Way of Greater Atlanta.

I work as a Development Officer supporting the engagement strategies of the Senior Director of Corporate Relations to ensure a smooth fundraising and auditing process for the over 600 high volume-low touch accounts. I also support the entire Corporate Relations team by securing, verifying, and auditing the fundraising results of third-party processed fundraising campaigns. So basically, I work with our corporate partners and educate them on the work of United Way and help facilitate their philanthropic workplace campaigns.

What is the OUT Georgia Impact Fund and what inspired you to champion it?

United Way of Greater Atlanta partnered with the OUT Georgia Business Alliance to create the OUT Georgia Impact Fund. This fund’s goal is for LGBTQ+ individuals, youth, families, and communities across the Greater Atlanta region. I am so grateful that my journey as an LGBTQ+ person was full of support every step of the way, but the fact of the matter is that is still not the norm in the world we live today. It is estimated that 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth aged 13-24 have seriously considered suicide; 80% of young LGBTQ+ people have expressed that they feel severe social isolation; and 42% of LGBTQ+ people have expressed that they are living in an unwelcoming or hostile environment. These are just a few of the statistics out there. It’s because of this that I have been so passionate about the work of this fund.

The OUT Georgia Impact Fund will be guided by a community-led advisory committee to make grants to eligible 501(c)3 non-profit organizations supporting LGBTQ+ youth to be stable, secure, and college and career ready. This fund will go to programs that support LGBTQ+ adults and families address urgent needs and secure resources….and this is only the beginning.

In my 35 years of existence, I have never worked for an organization where I have felt so comfortable to be my most authentic self. I am loved and valued for what I bring to the table, how I bring it to the table, and I don’t have to adjust how it is packaged to make someone else more comfortable. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me about my husband when they walk by my desk and see his pictures. What makes me even more proud is the fact they are putting their money where their mouth is with this partnership and fund. This is not something that only happens during pride month, the fundraising for this fund is ongoing because LGBTQ+ individuals and family need support year-round. United Way of Greater Atlanta has made great strides forward for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with our United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund and they continue to further this work with the OUT Georgia Impact Fund in a space where this work has not been done before.

What does representation mean to you?

Representation is of the utmost importance. I recently had the pleasure of watching the new Netflix show, “Heartstopper,” based on the graphic novel by the same name. It tells the innocent young love story of two high school aged boys, and some of the challenges faced in coming out, bullying, etc. I was overwhelmed with emotion at how wonderful of a story it was, and it flooded me with memories from my own experiences. It made me wonder if something like this could have saved me and others a lot of heartbreak if it was available back then. You can’t change the past but I’m grateful for it now. It reminded me of the importance of representation for all. As a society, we are blasted with constant noise telling us what success, fun, joy, etc. looks like. If that “success, fun, and joy” doesn’t include proper representation, then it engrains in those not represented that they either can’t achieve or aren’t deserving of those things.

What other talents do you make use of outside of work?

I have been a performer since grade school, and it has stuck with me. I am currently the House Manager for Atlanta Lyric Theatre and I still perform whenever a project comes along that I am passionate about. My husband is a performer too, and we can put on a very entertaining cabaret if I do say so myself 😊.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we are focused on the well-being of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta. When you are able to say that children are doing well in the community, it’s a great indicator that those communities – in turn – are doing well.

Early childhood providers have played a critical role during the pandemic as essential workers – staying open when others closed to ensure children were in safe and quality early learning experience so their families could work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated existing disparities in childcare. Years of underinvestment in childcare met with the challenges of the pandemic underscore the difficulty in accessing high-quality childcare.

That’s why our partnership with organizations like the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) are so important.

The early childhood development community plays a key role in driving United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Index both in terms of employment and economic mobility as a significant workforce in our state, but also for their role in supporting early language and literacy driving 3rd grade reading.

Given that early childhood education experiences are the first experiences that children have of education outside the home, curricula and values that empower children’s identity and values, and uphold their rights, are of paramount importance. And building leadership capacity within the early childhood profession is essential as the profession is forced to constantly shift due to changing educational, socio-political, health and economic demands.

The early childhood workforce consists of 40% Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), which for many childcare centers, is not representative of the population served. Educators of color tend to hold higher expectations of children of color and are less likely to misdiagnose them as special needs. We are supporting the work to not only increasing the diversity of the early childhood workforce in general, but more specifically early childhood leadership.

Leadership sets the tone and more early childhood leaders of color are needed to ensure that children are cared for in culturally responsive environments. In this challenging time for staffing for early childhood centers, having leadership that reflects the workforce is also important when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Recruitment and retention through knowledge and capacity building, promotion and succession planning will shape a cadre of professionals who can lead and advocate for more culturally responsive policies and practices that are reflective of the children and families they serve.

Learn more about United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI).

 

This story was previously published on SaportaReport.com.