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!

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

I have always had an affinity for finding ways to give back to the community. Being able to volunteer with like minded individuals to promote volunteerism of young professional leaders is a dream come true.

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

My passion is making sure every child and youth is college or career ready. I believe if we help equip youth and center them on a career that aligns with their strengths and passions they will succeed at what they do. I had a strong network to guide me as a young adult, but know that many do not have this. I believe as a community we can make sure that every youth has access to the right resources to succeed.

What was the turning point that made you realize the importance of giving back?

I am a firm believer that it is every generation’s responsibility to teach the next generation so they can achieve more than that generation was able to. I’ve had an affinity for learning and was surrounded by volunteerism early in my life. Once I graduated and realized I had skill sets that were needed in the community, I channeled my desire to learn into a passion for teaching the skills that I had learned.

How do you balance your professional life with giving back? How are you continuing to stay involved in the community during a pandemic?

This is a challenge we all face of finding the right balance with family, work and community. However, it comes down to being willing to sacrifice personal time out of my schedule. My work is very demanding, yet can be very flexible. So if I spend a few hours in the morning volunteering, likely I will end up working later that evening, but these are worthwhile sacrifices. A few hours out of my evening is worth it, every time, to impact the youth of tomorrow.

The pandemic has shifted my involvement into virtual volunteering, which has actually made it easier to work into my schedule.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining Young Professional Leaders?

Do it! The network of individuals at YPL are among the brightest in the city. You will be surrounded by a network of like minded individuals that are passionate about their careers and community. What are you waiting for, join YPL!

What aspects of your life motivate you to thrive and why?

I am motivated by business and finance. I channel these passions to help provide ways for me to give back into the community. I believe we are blessed to bless others. What we are given, has been given to us to give back to others in need. This can be tangible or intangible gifts. People should not feel they have nothing to give if they lack material wealth but our story and skills can be a gift to others as much, if not more than finances.

What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?

Although I have lived in the Greater Atlanta area for 5 years, I still felt disconnected from the community. Community service has been an important aspect in my life, and since moving to Georgia, I saw that YPL provided engaging and impactful opportunities in multiple spaces that allowed me to be amongst my peers. Interestingly, United Way’s positive impact has touched my life so many times and its initiatives have run parallel to my core beliefs for years now – I see it as a welcomed destiny to align my efforts with YPL.

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

All of it! I love teaching children, being involved with financial and health education, as well as organizing uplifting professional and entertainment events with the purpose of bringing the local community together. A connected community is so powerful that it can uplift and grow successful members of society for generations to come.

What was the turning point that made you realize the importance of giving back?

I hold a philosophy of Ubuntu – “I AM, because we ARE”. I have always felt that we are all tied to one another. My experience with hardship as a youth was a driver to push for better socio-economic conditions using education early on. However, the turning point to expand my efforts in the community was when BOTH of my parents died consecutively and unexpectedly while entering my 1st and 3rd year of college. That initial feeling of “losing everything”—my mind and spirit—was earth-shattering. All I could do was grasp from the depth of my beliefs to get through the next day, which was to help heal myself through helping others. I imagined that if I was going through this, someone was going through something worse and who could bear that alone? My empathy allowed me to just KEEP. PUSHING. ON. I looked up and I realized that dropping out of college or taking a break was not an option. And as the haze faded, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. The people around me helped tremendously, and most were total strangers! That encouragement and support lit a fire in me to continue using my gifts and time to help others in need.

How do you incorporate giving back into your free time? How are you continuing to stay involved in the community during a pandemic?

I prefer to choose work that I really like to do; therefore, my efforts flow around me and are an extension of who I am. During the pandemic, I elected to engage in various uplifting opportunities, such as reading to children, or planning community events.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining YPL?

Why not have fun and engage with the most awesome people in town?

What aspects of your life motivate you to thrive and why?

I’ve learned to sit still, listen and love myself. In addition, my practice of gratitude has opened the joy and opportunity in each day. Why? Because life, itself is a gift.

As 2020 comes to a close, we can’t help but be reminded that this year has been one of great difficulty and growth for many of us; and one of perseverance for all of us. We have learned and are still learning a great deal about what we can endure; how to come together as a community to support one another; and hopefully, how to set aside our differences to help one another survive and find peace during this trying season.

For our YPL, I am proud to have seen this organization of leaders come together to continue the work of building connection and breaking down barriers to success for our community of Greater Atlanta. Over the past six months, we have engaged young professionals throughout the Atlanta area in Strong Learners and Economic Stability, two of United Way’s four Child Well-Being priority areas through over 550 virtual and in-person volunteer hours as well as raising over $6K to benefit United Way’s Child Well-being and Racial Equity funds.

And we are even more optimistic for what 2021 will bring. YPL will focus our philanthropy, advocacy, and volunteering efforts on Brighter Futures and College and Career Ready, the remaining two of United Way’s four Child Well-Being priority areas. We welcome YPL members and guests to engage with us in upcoming events and activities aligned to each of these priority areas to increase child well-being in our community.

Click on the links below to learn more about each of United Way’s investment priority areas that we are focused on for 2020-2021 and join us for upcoming events and activities to support each of these.

Strong Learners – August, September, October

Economic Stability – November, December, January

Brighter Futures – February, March

College & Career Ready – April, May, June

To learn more and get engaged, join us for our first virtual social and game night of 2021 on January 21st.

Happy Holidays!

Brandi Wyche

2020-2021 Young Professional Leaders Chair

Want to connect with Brandi? Message her at ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org.

YPL was founded in 2010 as a place where Greater Atlanta’s growing population of young professionals could come together and actively engage in philanthropy, advocacy, volunteerism, and leadership in our community. In 2020, YPL celebrates our 10th year of service and over the past 10 years, we have seen our annual service hours grow from less than 500 hours per year to over 1,500 hours per year and seen annual funds raised exceed $2.5 million.

While YPL has been historically aligned to the United Way Child Well-Being cause by focusing primarily on the United Way Kid’s Home Initiative, as we look ahead to our next ten years of service, the YPL Board Leadership team is excited to announce that we will be taking a more strategic approach to progressing child well-being by aligning to United Way’s new Child Well-Being Investment Priorities. These investment priorities establish a collective vision and shared agenda with unified measures of achievement, strategies for attaining success, and an established evaluation process.

The four Child Well-Being priority areas include: Strong Learners, Economic Stability, Brighter Future, and College and Career Ready. Each quarter, YPL will focus our philanthropy, advocacy, and volunteering efforts around one of these investment priorities. We welcome YPL members and guests to engage in upcoming quarterly events and activities aligned to each of these priority areas to increase child well-being in our community. Our first priority area will be Strong Learners focused on improving third-grade reading levels and overall educational outcomes in Atlanta-based communities with low child well-being scores.

Click on the links below to learn more about each of United Way’s investment priority areas and join us for upcoming events and activities to support each of these priorities over the next year.

Strong Learners – August, September, October
Economic Stability – November, December, January
Brighter Future – February, March
College & Career Ready – April, May, June

To learn more, join us for our first virtual social and game night of the year on August 27th. See you there!

Brandi Wyche
2020-2021 Young Professional Leaders Chair

Want to connect with Brandi? Message her at ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org.

Jacob Ethel remembers the initial feeling of anger that swept over him when he first watched the video of George Floyd. He says he saw the “callousness” of the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck and the surrounding officers who stood by and did nothing.

“It was eye-opening for me,” he says. “Especially being an African-American male in this country, you tend to internalize these images… I can easily see myself as George Floyd in that situation and under the knee of the police officer. That was the hardest fact—that could be me. It was heartbreaking.”

Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota, died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Floyd’s death was captured on video and shared worldwide, which set off a global movement of protests. Protestors spoke out against yet another senseless and preventable death of a Black individual at the hands of police. These instances are common in Black communities, protestors say, and are a byproduct of systemic racism in America.

Ethel watched as tens of thousands of people assembled in the streets of Atlanta in the days following Floyd’s death to express their outrage and call for change. He wanted to express his thoughts and further the conversation within his own circles, so he began to reach out to friends and colleagues. Ethel, who is serving his second year on the board for United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders, says he sent a message to other YPL board members.

“Once I sent that message, I started to get a flood of responses from others telling me how they felt [that day],” he says. “Disenfranchised,” “Anxious,” “Afraid,” were some of the first words that Ethel says the group of YPL members mentioned. But then, as the discussion grew, those morphed into “Determined,” “Motivated,” “Focused.”

“We thought about what we could do to make this a more active communication so we can do something better to support our members as well as the larger community,” he says.

That’s where the conversation started with the Lead. Impact. Network. Change (LINC) and YPL affinity groups at United Way. The group ultimately decided to launch a #howareyouatl campaign to ask its members how they were doing—to check in.

The question, simply phrased, “How are you?” had become hollow, akin to “Hello,” Ethel says. But now, with the current state of the

world—not only in the midst of large-scale protests, but also in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic—this question had taken on new meaning.

What that video of George Floyd showed was a small representation of a much larger issue, Ethel says. The actions in that video were “devoid of humanity,” he says.

“We are better than that as a community, and as a country we have to do better,” Ethel says. “No matter who it was—it doesn’t matter the skin color, race, creed or religion. We have to do better as a community. We can’t stay silent any longer and allow these things to continue.”

The deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others related to racial violence remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, there is another disease we need to fear, fight and prevent: structural racism.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has always fought to end structural racism and upend the longstanding inequities that undermine the well-being of children, families and communities in our region.

United Way’s Child Well-Being Index, a set of 14 measures assessing the presence or absence of basic opportunities and resources that all children and families need to thrive, showed in 2017 that nearly 500,000 children live in communities of low child well-being. Those communities are occupied by a majority of Black and Brown residents.

The correlation between race and zip code comes with vulnerable populations and low levels of child well-being—making it critical for United Way to address place and racial equity strategically. United Way recently launched the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund on the belief they are uniquely equipped to play a role in bringing together communities around this critical need. You can donate to this fund today.

The best way to overcome years of inequity is by coming together and creating a dialogue around these issues, Ethel says.

“That’s what we’re pushing for, not only in YPL but worldwide,” Ethel says. “Our board members have taken the challenge to make sure this continues to our individual organizations.

“[United Way] supports a myriad of causes to improve the common good of communities around the world, and that’s why I continue to donate and support with my time,” Ethel says. “That’s why we have to continue these conversations. We need to make sure systemic racism in our country and discrimination is not tolerated.”

2020 is destined to be a year of significant historical relevance in our lifetime. In this season we are enduring a global pandemic the likes of which we have never seen; an economic slowdown that is causing hardships across the Atlanta area as well as across the US; and a long-awaited uprising against racial injustices and police brutality. 2020’s provocations only scratch the surface of the challenges that many in our city face: challenges of homelessness, generational poverty, income inequality, racial divides, adult illiteracy, and low educational standards, to name a few.

Even with our current challenges, the city of Atlanta has been historically known to be a city of growth; a city poised at the forefront of opportunity; a city uniquely situated at the intersection of business, government, and philanthropy; a city with a history of building leaders that change the world. To this end, I am proud to be involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta, an organization known for building those types of leaders.

As the 2020-2021 United Way Young Professional Leaders (YPL) Chair, I am excited about the opportunity we have to take on the challenges that lie before us. This year’s YPL Board is comprised of incredible, action-oriented leaders from some of Atlanta’s most influential businesses and we are ready to be a proactive voice for change in Atlanta’s community through philanthropy, community advocacy, and volunteerism.

If you are a young professional ready to take on these challenging times, enhance your leadership skills, and build important relationships while you’re at it, I hope that you will join us this year! Our YPL Advisory Board is currently preparing innovative and actionable ways for you to get involved and make a difference in our community. As chair, I believe that your involvement in tackling these challenging times will make 2020 a year of positive change that you may never forget.

Brandi Wyche

2020-2021 Young Professional Leaders Chair

Want to connect with Brandi? Message her at ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org.

United Way’s YPL, LINC asks ‘How are you?’

Affinity group looks to create dialogue around issue of systemic racism in light of recent deaths of Black individuals

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man from Minneapolis, died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd’s death was captured on video, shared worldwide, and then set off a global movement of protests that quickly spread across the U.S. — protestors spoke out against yet another senseless and preventable death of a Black individual, and the unjust murders of Black people at the hands of police. These instances are common in Black communities, protestors say, and these deaths a byproduct of systemic racism in America.

The deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others related to racial violence remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, there is another disease we need to fear, fight and prevent.

On May 26, the day after Floyd’s death, protests began in Minneapolis and spread nationwide as tens of thousands of people assembled in the streets to express their outrage and sorrow. Those marches quickly spread to Atlanta.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has always fought to end structural racism and upend the longstanding inequities that undermine the well-being of children, families and communities in our region.

There’s one way we can hope to overcome such division: by coming together and creating a dialogue around these issues.

With so much going on in the world, United Way’s Lead. Impact. Network. Change. (LINC) and Young Professional Leaders (YPL) network decided to reach out to its members and check in—to ask, “How are You?”

 

Here are some of the responses to the #HowAreYouATL tag on Instagram:

User @idasangel says while the movement has exposed certain things, these issues are nothing new for Black communities in Greater Atlanta and across the United States.

“Atlanta is my birthplace. I was raised here. And will forever serve here,” @idasangel writes.
“This movement has exposed systems, behaviors and beliefs that have sought to tear both this city and this nation apart.

“Lately, I’ve been feeling mentally drained, but this emotion isn’t new to so many of us.”

@johnsonkentara echoed that same feeling, simply stating “I’m exhausted.”

Also, via Instagram, @jenniferjakijohnson says these injustices are sickening.

“I know I am tired and sick from the injustices. It is undeniable [sic] a sad place to be in when you wonder if your Black son, brother, or father will return home safely,” @jenniferjakijohnson says.

@kd.noire thanked YPL and LINC for taking the time to ask a routine but important question.

“Asking ‘how are you’ maybe once seemed so routine and simple, but it is really vital to creating genuine connections,” @kd.noire says. “Thank you for asking and caring!”

We want to know how you’re doing.

How can you participate? We’re encouraging Greater Atlanta to join us in the conversation and share how you are feeling on social media using #howareyouatl and engaging with United Way’s Young Professional Leaders’ posts and stories here.