YPL Member, Jessica Sturm
Secondary Special Education Lead
City Schools of Decatur


YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group

Jessica: In September, I researched different non-profit organizations in the Atlanta area where I could volunteer and decided to join United Way. After a couple of volunteer opportunities, I decided I wanted to become more involved in the organization. Young Professional Leaders (YPL) group seemed like a perfect fit! I felt this group was a place I could engage with others who are also trying to make a difference, as we are all professionals with a passion for community service. Joining the YPL Gala Committee has been such an amazing experience. The first time I came to a meeting, I felt so energized because there were people sitting around the table I had a lot in common with and all with the same goal – to help the kids! As I continue to become more involved in YPL, I am making new friends and meeting more and more amazing individuals in the Atlanta area who are passionate, strong-willed, and truly want to make this world a better place.


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

Jessica: YPL supports Kids Home Initiative and as an educator, this is very close to my heart. I have taught and worked with students who are currently homeless or who were homeless at one point in their life. Homelessness impacts their lives tremendously. It is amazing how the resources many of us take for granted can change a kid’s life and allow them to be and feel successful in school. I am very passionate about this project and all the fundraising we are doing at YPL to assist with stability and resources for the whole family. Children are our future and all children deserve a stable home-life.


YPL: What is your favorite quote?

Jessica: “Gratitude reciprocates.”

Joseph E. Heatherly
Audit Partner, Grant Thornton LLP

Tocqueville Society Member
Young Professional Leaders Advisory Board Member



Joseph E. Heatherly is an audit partner at Grant Thornton LLP, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms.

Joseph began his career at Grant Thornton in September 2004 in Charlotte, NC. After spending several years in the audit division of the firm’s Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC offices, he completed a two-year rotation within the firm’s national office. In July 2015, Joseph moved to the Atlanta office of Grant Thornton searching for additional career opportunities and was promoted to audit partner in August 2016. Joseph focuses on serving publicly traded and privately held entities within the transportation, retail, service, and pharmaceutical industries.

In addition to his membership in the Tocqueville Society of United Way Atlanta, Joseph is a member of the Young Professional Leaders Advisory Board of United Way Atlanta and serves as Internal Communications Chair. He is also a member of the 2019 Multiple Sclerosis Leadership Class of Atlanta.

Joseph is a native of Jonesville, SC, and received his Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Masters of Professional Accountancy from Clemson University. He resides with his wife, Caroline, and their daughter in Buckhead.

#WhyWednesday: Ronshavius Strozier

“The essence of leadership is servitude.”

Ronshavius Strozier chooses to use her leadership skills in service of her community as a United Way of Greater Atlanta Young Professional Leaders board member. Today, hear why!

United Way Young Professional Leaders is a group of community champions, aged 40 and under, making connections and sparking change in Greater Atlanta. Want to see what YPL is all about? You have two great opportunities coming up: the annual SaturDAY of Service on April 13 and the Night for a Brighter Tomorrow (on the rooftop at Ponce City Market!) on May 3.

#WhyWednesday: Victoria Witherington

At a YPL event, Victoria Witherington saw firsthand the impact of United Way — and she stepped up to do her part. Hear why Victoria gives back to her community as a United Way Young Professional Leaders advisory board member!

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders turn their influence into impact in our communities. Through their signature cause, United Way’s Kids Home Initiative, YPL members are helping families across Greater Atlanta become financially stable and have access to brighter futures. Click here to become a member!

#WhyWednesday: Lonnell Williams

“If it wasn’t for the United Way, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

At a young age, United Way YPL board member Lonnell Williams saw firsthand the painful effects of drug violence and intergenerational poverty—and determined to turn his life in a direction of serving his community and lifting others up. Today, he’s committed to ensuring others never experience the hardship he experienced.

Hear Lonnell share his powerful story:

What’s your “why”? At United Way of Greater Atlanta, you can plug into your purpose as a volunteer, advocate, donor or member of one of our many engagement groups.

YPL Member, Robert Gorski
3rd Party Wholesale Program Manager
SunTrust Bank

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Bobby: I have always been involved in charity and giving back. My grandfather was big on giving back; in fact, he built the first YMCA in my hometown. My dad is a high school teacher and is very involved with the Ronald McDonald house. Every year my family goes to visit a room we sponsor and donate time and goods. My grandfather, who has since passed, has a scholarship named after him for underprivileged youth who are active in the community giving back. Giving is in my blood. At Sun Trust I was tasked with bringing a team of 800 people together for a charity project, so we set up a wishlist drive for the Ronald McDonald house and got everyone involved. I learned about YPL through Richard Yancey who thought the program would be of great interest to me, and he was right!

YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Bobby: Giving kids an equal chance no matter their background or financial situation. I want to help out them in the best situation possible to succeed.

YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Bobby: Two of my favorite quotes include:

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

“If you possess something but you can’t give it away, then you don’t possess it…it possess you.” – Frank Sinatra

YPL Member, Jennifer Sweeny
Operations Manager
Atlanta Gas Light

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Jennifer: Giving back in my community has been an integral part of my life since childhood as generosity of spirit was consistently modeled by my parents. One of my guiding principles is to be generous with my time, knowledge, skills, ideas and interactions with others. As such, I seek out ways in which I can positively influence those in my community. The YPL group provide opportunities where my personal impact is tangible and I am able to connect with others who are like-minded in their commitment to supporting our communities.

YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Jennifer: I am most passionate about supporting the efforts that strengthen the framework needed for improving the wellbeing of the families and children in our communities – whether that is homelessness, supporting basic needs or investing in the education of those in our communities.

YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Jennifer: Two of my favorite quotes include:

“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

“We live and work in a city with a heartbeat. A place where companies that do well also do good. Our streets tell the stories of how leaders in business, government, nonprofits and the media have uniquely intersected in Atlanta.

Just blocks from United Way of Greater Atlanta’s headquarters is a boulevard named after Pulitzer Prize-winning Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill. Heading west towards the Center for Civil and Human Rights, that boulevard turns into Ivan Allen—former Atlanta businessman and mayor. Continuing into Atlanta’s historic Westside, this main artery in the heart of our capital city takes on the name of Joseph E. Boone, a Civil Rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These are the legacies that play out throughout the neighborhoods of our 13-county metro area.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you share the same fondness for our region as the leaders who have come before you, and I want to invite you to find your own place in the United Way of getting things done. Since 1905, UWGA has been convening leaders to tackle complex community issues and drive sustainable improvements in the well-being of children, families and individuals.

The challenges are undeniable:

  • By 2040, the metro region is expected to add 1.59 million people
  • We have one of the highest rates of income inequality and rank far too high in the suburbanization of poverty.
  • Our children born at the lowest income level have just a 5% chance of rising to the highest income level in their lifetime which is one of the lowest rates of economic mobility in the country.

It’s our time to lead.

As the 2018-2019 chair of UWGA’s Young Professional Leaders, I can tell you our Advisory Board is devoted to engaging the next generation of leaders by cultivating a spirit of philanthropy, community advocacy, and volunteerism. We want to connect you with your community through volunteer service, grow your leadership capacity through professional development opportunities, and leverage your skills to create positive change.

Our Advisory Board is preparing to convene and plan an incredible year for YPL. Great things are in the works beginning this fall and culminating at another incomparable Night for a Brighter Tomorrow gala on May 3, 2019.

I hope you will join us.”
– Jennifer Grove