Brandi L. Parrish

January 25, 2010 

Her job: Associate director, New Morning Foundation

Age: 29

Family: fiancee, Will Ellison

Education: Bachelor's degree in sociology, Clemson University

Community/professional involvement: Board member, S.C. League of Women Voters, Columbia Area; member, Women in Philanthropy, S.C. Women's Caucus, S.C. Alliance for Women, National Organization for Women-S.C. chapter, S.C. Think Tank for Women in Elected Office, Historic Columbia Foundation and Family Connection of South Carolina

Her story: After two years working on a program for at-risk youth in Hawaii, she returned to her home state, South Carolina, to begin a career in policy and advocacy.

Parrish joined the New Morning Foundation in 2005 as its first advocacy coordinator and later was named associate director. She works to get those younger than 30 access to sexual health information as well as counseling and clinical services. She also lobbies lawmakers on these issues and has co-authored a primer on advocacy work.

What saying does she live by? "Treat others how you wish to be treated."

Her life changed when ... She began volunteering for her high school's Key Club. "I quickly realized that there were people living in my community who were not able to enjoy the same things in life that I took for granted: responsible, caring parents, a warm bed, food, access to quality health care and, most of all, an education.

"I used to tell people that I wanted to be a full-time volunteer when I grew up and then I realized I could actually make a career out of making a difference."

How did she recover after failing at something? "I was an average student with minor learning disabilities, which set me back not only in my studies but also emotionally. I have had to work on building my self-confidence and have had to learn to rely on my strong work ethic."

She is known for teaching advocacy. How does she suggest people become effective community activists? "Be in the know: read, listen and learn. ... Find an issue that is important to you and take time each week to educate yourself about what is happening around our state.

"Realize that every issue affects you and your way of life. People often fear extending themselves beyond their personal comfort zones. However, once they do, they quickly realize other people care about the same issues."

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