Please welcome new YPL member Will Godwin! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

After living in Atlanta for four years and becoming familiar with community around me, I wanted to support and serve an organization like United Way that provides solutions on issues affecting child, family, and community well-being. I was sold after attending a Saturday of Service and experiencing the mission on display.

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

I am most passionate about child well-being, particularly United Way’s Strong Learners program. It’s very important that all children have access to learning and quality learning experiences.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

This one is not so fun for me: I broke my left collar bone twice before the age of nine.

On a brighter note, I got engaged last week!

Stephanie is a life-long Atlanta native was a passion for healthcare access. Learn how she became involved in YPL below! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

I’ve lived in Atlanta my entire life and I wanted an opportunity to help improve the well-being of others in our community. I studied management in the social sector and worked with several service organizations in college, and I became particularly interested in helping to create equitable education opportunities when I started mentoring first-generation college students a couple of years ago. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of support and resources to get to where I am, so I’m grateful to be able to work with United Way to help give others the same opportunities I’ve had.

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

As a healthcare professional, I’m particularly passionate about United Way’s work to help families navigate the healthcare system, since it can be extremely challenging and is integral to providing a stable environment for children to grow up in.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

I love skiing and have gone almost every year since I was 2 years old!

Obi knows how much the right type of support can help others.  Read on to find out why he chose to give back through YPL and United Way! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

I did not get to where I am by myself. I’ve had help and support from different people since I moved to Atlanta from Chicago, so giving back was something I’ve always had on my mind. Being able to give back and help someone the same way I was helped honestly bring me joy. I volunteered for a snack pack a couple months ago, and a woman who was impacted by it spoke about how much it meant to her, and her family. Right then and there, I spoke to Rashad about wanting to be involved more, and that’s how I became involved with YPL.

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

I am most passionate about supporting the impact committee, and serve the current learning spaces throughout Atlanta. Being present, and seeing what we do takes fruition fuels me and gives me more purpose.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

Fun fact about myself is that I am able to assemble a PC/Gaming PC given the right components.


After serving seven years with United Way of Greater Atlanta Linc and Young Professional Leaders, it is my absolute joy and privilege to step up as the 2022-2023 Young Professional Leaders Chair, carrying out our mission of uniting and equipping young leaders to build a greater Atlanta.

I have always had a strong passion for uplifting and advocating for our children, the most vulnerable in our communities. Only one-third of the children living in Atlanta and surrounding communities are having their early childcare needs met, resulting in only 1 of 5 third graders being strong readers. This limits their opportunities and makes them four times more likely to drop out of school.

Through United Way’s Strong Learners pillar, we work to improve educational outcomes for children by expanding early learning opportunities, increasing support outside of school, and helping to strengthen families’ health and financial stability through a holistic approach starting from infancy. This includes expanding access to early education, building reading skills, increasing healthcare navigation, securing basic housing needs, and strengthening family engagement through community partnerships.

As the 2022-2023 Chair, I am excited about the opportunities that sit before us and the impact we will make as young professionals serving our community. Living through two years of a pandemic and seeing the effects it has had not only on our own lives but on the lives of our loved ones and those in the communities where we live, we are more enthusiastic and ready as ever to roll up our sleeves and get to work. We are a group of young professionals that puts our passion to work to serve, grow as leaders, and develop as professionals together.

This is a humbling, full-circle moment to be able to serve the community in this capacity. The United Way’s mission of engaging and bringing together people and resources to drive sustainable and equitable improvements in the well-being of children, families, and individuals in the community is near and dear to my heart, as I have seen and experienced the impact of the work in my own life. I am compelled to pay it forward.

I’ll close with this, “Without service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop.” – Dorothy Height

Keonda M Banks

2022-2023 United Way YPL Chair

 

We’re excited to announce the 2022-2023 Young Professional Leaders (YPL) and Lead. Impact. Network. Change. (LINC) boards. The board members consist of young professionals who have shown amazing leadership throughout our community.

2022-2023 United Way LINC Board
Board Leadership

Latonya Beverly – Chair
LaDarrien Gillette – Vice Chair

Board Members

Kiana Lawrence
Mitchell Hogan
Sam Stargel
Stephanie Schnur
Tahir Temple
Terry Vilayhong
Nigel Walton

2022-2023 United Way’s Young Professional Leaders Board
Board Leadership

Keonda Banks – Chair
Jonathan Hutchins – Vice Chair
Jacob Ethel – Partnership Committee Chair
Jasmine Morgan – Signature Events Committee Chair

Board Members

Tucker Eagle
Alex Garland
Jessica Gibbs
Will Godwin
Leroy Green
Angela Hill
Tyler Johnson
Eric Jones
Crystal Lazarus
Markethia McDonald
Jasmine Mosley
Obinna Onyeaghala
Lisa Pluckebaum
Stefanie Small
Latoya Stephenson-Smith
Richard Taylor
Katherine Tipton
Benjamin Williams
Raymond Williams
Victoria Witherington

Thank you all for your service and commitment! If you would like to reach the boards, or if you would like to learn more about YPL and LINC, please email us at ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org or linc@unitedwayatlanta.org.

As a newcomer to Atlanta, Josh wanted to find an organization where he could give back to the community while also growing professionally. Read on to find out why he chose to YPL and United Way! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

I’m relatively new to the Atlanta area, and when life started to get back to normal after the pandemic I knew I wanted to find an organization where I could give back to the community while also growing professionally. YPL provides me just that. There are so many service opportunities through United Way, and it’s great to be able to give back while also connecting with other like-minded young professionals.

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

I’m passionate about finding all ways to support underserved children through the Child Well-Being program. Being a dad myself, it’s tough to see a child without the resources they need to be all that they can be, and this initiative aims to provide those resources. I’m also passionate about supporting the College and Career Ready initiatives. I work in higher education, so I’m fortunate to see how powerful education is daily.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

I have two daughters, Nora and Molly, who are three and one respectively. While there’s a lot of hustle involved with them, they seem to be heavier on the expense side. I do love exploring everything our city has to offer, especially new restaurants and breweries, with family and friends.

Genevieve has a passion for advancing early childhood education opportunities for underserved children in Atlanta – read why she chose to join YPL and United Way to persue that passion! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.
What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

Atlanta is a huge city with many worthy causes, so I decided to join Young Professionals Leaders because I was looking for a way to use my skills to support causes that align with my values. YPL also appealed to me because it offers a structure through which to learn about Greater Atlanta businesses, non-profit organizations, and short & long- term initiatives that impact the local economy, cultural vibrancy, and growth of the city. Plus, as a devout Catholic, the exposure to volunteer opportunities at hundreds of different organizations was very attractive to me.

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

Through my role as PNC Bank Client & Community Relations Assistant Director, I have become most passionate about advancing early childhood education opportunities for underserved children in Atlanta. Studies have shown that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 5. United Way’s Strong Learners investment priority, which is part of the Child Well Being Initiative, aims to increase Atlanta families’ access to early learning experiences. These programs support growing minds and ensure students are prepared for kindergarten and on track to read at grade level by 3rd grade.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

My current side hustle is babysitting for family members since I enjoy spending time with children and learning about the ways they see the world. My slightly random fun fact is that many people have told me that I should be a hand model. If any nail polish or jewelry brands read this…hit me up!

Meet one of our newest members, Markeitha McDonald! We’re excited to welcome Markeitha to the YPE family! If you would like to be featured in our next member spotlight, please click here.
What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

I have been a part of United Way in some capacity since college and love the work that United Way does in the community. I decided to get involved with YPL to connect with like-minded young professionals who are passionate about community service, philanthropy, and networking. As a young professional, I feel that it is important to give back time and resources to the community that I live in so that those without the same resources can also flourish.

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

I am most passionate about supporting United Way’s work in Child Well-Being and Mentorship. The youth of our community are the future and equipping our next generation of leaders with the tools, resources and knowledge that they need to thrive is a mission that I believe is of the utmost importance.

Do you have fun fact or a side hustle (entrepreneurship) that you would like to share with us?

Atlanta is such a huge city with many hidden gems, so every month I try to Do/See/Eat. Do something in the city I’ve never done before, See something I’ve never seen before, and Eat somewhere I’ve never eaten before. Recently I tried KR Steakbar in Peachtree Hills and went to the Trap Museum for the first time!

Everyone’s eyes were on the political landscape in Georgia a few short months ago. There was a lot of focus on how we could make an impact on a much larger scale.

But how do we continue this momentum and the discussion of issues that directly affect Georgians? How do we transition this to a larger movement to drive engagement and encourage lasting change?

In order to influence positive change, you need to be proactive. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders and LINC affinity groups met last week to discuss that next plan to action in an “Influencing Positive Change” virtual panel led by Tharon Johnson, CNN contributor and CEO of Paramount Consulting, and Rev. James Woodall, Georgia NAACP President.

Much of the change in Georgia in the past few years could be directly related to the “young coalition of voters,” and grassroots campaigns, Johnson says.

So, the talk centered around that role young professionals can play in influencing change around state and local policies that directly impact children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta.

One way to do this is through advocating for policy that helps address disparities in our community, Johnson says.

“We got to talk about the changing demographics in [Georgia], and where there were a lot of things that white people didn’t know existed, it was brought to the forefront when we saw the unrest that was going on in this country,” Johnson says. “What I was most proud of, was how the young people stood up and peacefully protested to make sure [this] remained at the forefront.”

He said this was part of what drove people in Georgia to the polls, specifically in Black communities, and then stressed the importance of staying tuned into what was happening at the state level currently with any legislation that would potentially “disenfranchise voters of color.”

“In order to influence change, we have to educate ourselves on the change,” says Jasmine Morgan, a YPL member and senior training consultant for IHG Hotels and Resorts’ Hospitality Young Professionals Exchange (HYPE) group. “This [social] was informative and collaborative, and we got the community involved from the standpoint of having experts at the table to drive conversations around things we as young professionals may not have thought of or been exposed to before.”

IHG was a sponsor for the event, and Morgan says the partnership with YPL was a natural one because it aligned with HYPE’s mission to bring together people who have a shared passion around improving their community.

“This event has really gotten to people,” says Morgan, who leads a remote-based team spread out across the U.S. “We’ve been talking so long about how we influence positive change—whether that be ending racial discrimination, our own unconscious bias—but how do we do it? How do I make myself a part of the fight and a part of the solution?

“Sometimes if you don’t talk to people, nothing happens, and nothing moves forward.”

Attendees were encouraged to become a part of the solution by joining United Way and its work to provide a Brighter Future for neighborhoods in South DeKalb, South Fulton and Clayton Counties—all areas with low child well-being scores.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has recently aligned its work to invest in four priority areas to improve the well-being of children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta. United, we can make sure children have more. More opportunities, more resources, more chances to grow up as strong learners who are college and career ready. We can also make sure families that are economically stable and set up for more success in the future.

And young people in this country are “literally at the forefront” of this movement to push toward a more equitable Atlanta and a more equitable Georgia, Woodall says. We just have to continue that fight and “right the line,” he says.

“When we are gone to be in glory, we’ll all be able to look down the corridors of history and see our children hollering out in our memory because we didn’t give up,” Rev. Woodall says. “We stayed true to who we thought we would be, we stayed consistent in our pursuit of liberty and justice for all people. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

This was the challenge Woodall left the group with, and Lauren Rock, Director of Individual Engagement in the Office of Development for United Way, says she’s been overwhelmed by the positive response from this discussion.

She said now the goal is to connect with all of those who attended and then introduce them to the work United Way is doing in specific communities where we are fighting to drive equitable recovery and end racial disparities. Now’s the time to inform people about how they can get involved by becoming an advocate and volunteering.

“YPL already has touch points in Clayton County, and we’re all wanting to see the impact in those areas,” Rock says. “We’re continuing this engagement and introducing Brighter Future to people, telling them why this is important and what we’re supporting.

“Beyond that, we’re having conversations at the board level, finding ways to connect with the Clayton County Brighter Future Youth Leadership Council and the work they are doing so that we might support them and amplify their voices. We want to give people the opportunity to plug in.”

Eesha Sasumana, an analyst working for IHG and a HYPE member, was impressed by the event and United Way’s broad vision for the future.

“I think United Way has done an amazing job bringing about positive change to the Greater Atlanta region, particularly in the arena of developing children, young adults and the leaders of tomorrow,” Sasumana says. “I believe continuing that momentum of developing young minds and helping them reach new heights is an invaluable resource and there are always new avenues to explore such as mentorship, skills workshops and professional development opportunities.”

One of the most powerful messages from the panel discussion for Sasumana was that even though much has been done and progress has been made, “it is important to recognize there is still more room to grow.”

There are more opportunities to address disparities and promote equality.

“When the panelists were asked for specific work those interested in influencing change can do to improve their communities and play a part in the larger movement, the panelists stressed that any activity is better than none,” Sasumana says. “They continued with a call to action, sharing resources for on advocacy efforts, tracking current legislation as well as media materials to help stay up to date on current events in this space.”

To learn more about continuing this work and how to get involved, join the LINC and Young Professional Leaders affinity group.

Laura Salvatore Adams is passionate about public health work. But, more recently, she’s seen how the importance a community places on the health of its citizens can impact a family’s ability to grow its wealth.

Adams is one of many United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders who volunteered in the LINC and YPL affinity group’s Child Well-Being Hackathon on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“I think, typically, hackathons are a half day, full of events, and with our hackathon we wanted to sort of replicate what you see in the business world,” Adams, a YPL board member, says. “We wanted to bring together multiple organizations and have them solve some sort of problem in a short time frame.”

 Lauren Rock, Director of Individual Engagement in the Office of Development for United Way, says this hackathon was an “evolution of United Way’s historical MLK Weekend event” called the Day of Innovation, which was first hosted by United Way with LINC members about six years ago.

The event has evolved over time and the format changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it allowed LINC and YPL to host a unique skill-based volunteer opportunity.

“This year they are focused on introducing young professionals to United Way’s Investment Priorities, and a more expanded representation of organizations that share in their commitment to Child Well-Being,” Rock says. “On Jan. 18, we were joined by: Atlanta CARES, Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Everybody Wins Atlanta, Sneaker Ball Atlanta’s FEATS and InspirEDU.”

These organizations were selected based on a set of criteria that amplified youth voices, created digital access to literacy tools and increased equitable outcomes for communities impacted by structural racism, Rock says.

An event participant said the event was ‘a very fulfilling experience, much better than dropping off goods at the office.”

“For an event that typically lasts a half day and that has overwhelming success in person, we knew that the limitations of the virtual world might impact the overall experience,” Rock says. “Fortunately, the feedback has blown us away and encouraged us to begin planning our next hackathon.”

Adams moved to Atlanta from Topeka, Kansas for school—but Atlanta’s been her home for the past six or seven years, she says. It’s no longer just “a stop along the way,” but where she has settled and set roots for her family. The Emory University graduate has a master’s in public health with a focus in health policy and management. But the hackathon work on MLK Day centered around the issue of economic stability, she says.

“Partner organizations came into the hackathon with a challenge they needed help with,” she says. “I partnered with the Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, and what they were doing had to do with their overall strategy and branding from where they are now compared to where they want to go.”

Making sure families are financially stable starts with making sure a family remains healthy, Adams says.

“What brought me to volunteer more with United Way at first is public health, but as I’ve gotten more involved, it becomes apparent that a part of public health is economic stability,” she says. “It’s hard to pay attention to public health when you aren’t [financially stable].”

United Way of Greater Atlanta has recently aligned its work to invest in four priority areas to improve the well-being of children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta. United, we can make sure children grow up as strong learners who are college and career ready—we can make sure families that are economically stable are set up for the best possible success for the future.

United Way’s economic stability work focuses on improving job skills while addressing factors like housing, financial education and health costs, which helps ensure families convert an increase in income to sustained wealth—that last point is what grabbed Adams’ attention.

“That’s what I’m most interested in these days. It seems crucial to providing long-term sustainable change in these communities,” she says. “I feel like all of the investment priorities United Way has I align with.

“I just want to bring whatever skillset I have to make those things happen. Being a [YPL] board member, it’s not just about our ideas, but how we can execute more of what United Way wants to do. We are really passionate about this work.”

If you are passionate about giving back to your community, join the LINC and Young Professional Leaders affinity group.