Arriving at IUPUI, undergraduate student Taylor Parker believed she wanted to pursue a degree in social work. A meeting with an advisor and a visit to the third floor of University Hall changed her mind. But where did her passion for helping others begin?
“My family has always volunteered. I’ve always helped them out and have found other ways to also help others,” she said.
This led to Parker establishing her own nonprofit organization called Project Clean Living during her senior year in high school based on an encounter with a classmate.
“She came up to me and asked if I could give her $5.00 to buy a box of hygiene products because her family didn’t have enough money for groceries, let alone that,” Parker said. “So I said yes and went and bought her a couple of boxes. The next month, she came to me again because her dad had been laid off and he was their only source of income. So I started doing research and saw how big of a problem it is. No one wants to talk about it but we need to talk about it.
“As a result, I started Project Clean Living (now Red Dot Drives) in order to help women in need get menstrual hygiene products. One in eight women in Indiana don’t have access to them and so they’ll miss work or school. They can get infection. So, it’s making sure that people have access to absolute necessities.”
Even with her busy schedule, Parker finds time to hold menstrual product drives, including a clothes swap and product drive on November 6.
“Since I’m in college, Red Dot Drives has become more a series of service events to donate items and raise awareness about this issue,” she said.
After arriving at IUPUI with a passion for helping others and a year of experience running a nonprofit, Parker spoke to her advisor about pursuing a degree in social work.
“I talked to her about my career goals and interests. She didn’t dissuade me from studying social work but she thought I might be more interested in philanthropic studies and should look at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy,” she said. “I went to the school, spoke with Pamela (Clark, director of student services and admissions), and changed my major that day.”
Parker knew she was in the right place during her first philanthropic studies class.
“We went around introducing ourselves. I talked about Red Dot Drives and that I was president of Key Club and the community service coordinator for my high school,” she said. “Then everyone in the room went around and said something similar. I knew then I was in the best community possible. This is a great place to not only learn from peers and their experiences and perspectives, but also a way to share networks as well.”
Parker also enjoys going through classes with many of the same students.
“It’s a solid group that’s going through it with me. It makes me feel more connected,” she said.
Parker has also found a way to connect with the faculty.
“I think all of the faculty members are great, but my favorite professor is also my boss (Dr. Sara Konrath),” she said. “She is so knowledgeable and loves to engage with her students and help them out. Our first meeting, she sat me down and asked about my ambitions and goals. Before I left, she had given me three jobs to apply for. We have a great working relationship – I started as her intern but now run the social media management for her lab and for the RAKi app. I’ve learned about app development, empathy development, and marketing.”
She is gaining valuable experience at her current internship.
“I intern at the Kitchen Community, which creates learning gardens at different local schools to teach children about where food comes from and how food grows,” Parker said. “It’s focused on food literacy for children. I help in many different ways – I assist with kickoff and harvest days, facilitate workshops, take pictures and video, and run a social media calendar.”
In addition to all of that, Parker has also found another way to get involved. She currently serves as the vice president of outreach for the Philanthropy Ambassadors Club (PAC).
“I joined PAC last year because I wanted to meet other students and engage in other ways. I served as secretary last year, and VP this year,” she said. “Our goals are to help students make mutually beneficial relationships with nonprofit organizations, as well as to form a strong community in the undergraduate philanthropic studies program. We facilitate social and service events and also give students a perspective on everything that is happening in Indianapolis and how to help people in the city.”
While Parker is not sure of her future goals, she knows one thing for sure.
“It’s hard to narrow down my focus, but I know I want to help people in any way that I can,” she said. “I think I would like to work with students and young adults and help them learn how to give back in the most efficient and best way possible.”
And her thoughts about the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy?
“I am so grateful for all of the faculty and staff in the school because everyone is here for our benefit. I know that people are here to support me to achieve my goals.”
Abby Rolland is the blog content coordinator for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.