The e-mail Patricia Parker received shortly after New Year’s Day seemed like a dream. She and members of the Chapel Hill youth action group that she founded were invited to celebrate the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 – for free.

The e-mail Patricia Parker received shortly after New Year’s Day seemed like a dream. She and members of the Chapel Hill youth action group that she founded were invited to celebrate the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 – for free.

Parker, a communication studies associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the founder of the Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism. The flagship project of Parker’s nonprofit is Striving Sisters Speak!!! (S³), a group of young minority women in low-income neighborhoods who are working to create coalitions of social justice in their communities.

Five teenagers and several volunteers and chaperones with the group will attend the inauguration celebration thanks to The Stafford Foundation’s People’s Inauguration Project and other, UNC donors. They will attend a prayer breakfast, a luncheon at which Martin Luther King III will speak and an inaugural ball, among other festivities.

The foundation was started by Earl W. Stafford, founder of a Centreville, Va., technology company. The foundation has paid $1 million for an inauguration celebration – reserving 300 rooms and four suites at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. The celebration will also include food, other activities and a private site to overlook the inauguration parade. The foundation will bring in Americans from all walks of life – underprivileged children, the terminally ill, wounded veterans, the homeless, the chronically unemployed – to experience the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

Kendall Weaver, 14, a ninth-grader at East Chapel Hill High School, is a member of Striving Sisters Speak!!! who will attend the inauguration.

“I began working with S³ last July and helped to organize a community festival encouraging youth activism in my neighborhood,” she said. “I am proud to say that, like the president-elect, I am a community organizer.”

Weaver will be joined on the trip by fellow community organizers Tiara Denning, 15; Cassandra Lloyd, 18; Ashley Webb, 16; and Bianca Webb, 14; Volunteers with UNC connections include senior Alysa Campbell, a public policy major from Lithonia, Ga.; and UNC alumna Stacey Ellen Craig of Durham, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in international studies.

Parker won a competitive Kauffman Fellowship from the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative to create the model center. Named for N.C. civil rights activist Ella Baker, the center will work to counter the trend of increasing social fragmentation among young people who struggle daily with issues of poverty, violence and crime.

This spring, through a grant from the Robertson Scholars Collaboration Fund, Parker will partner with Duke University to convene a conference on “Sharing the Mantle: Strategies for Creating Youth and Adult Partnerships.”

“My goal was to bring together youth in vulnerable communities with the idea of creating a different model of adult-youth interaction,” said Parker, who spent time volunteering and getting to know youth at the Trinity Court and Pritchard Park public housing neighborhoods not far from campus. “This is not providing services to the youth, but creating a collaborative partnership, encouraging self-empowerment.”

The inauguration trip is also supported by William Keyes, founder of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, D.C. Keyes is a member of the UNC Board of Visitors. Support is also provided by UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, communication studies department and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Service and Engagement. Community sponsors include Dillard’s Inc., the department store, and Strowd Roses Inc., a Chapel Hill-based foundation.

Note:
Parker can be reached at psparker@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-4939 (office) or (919) 201-1376 (cell). Parker can put media representatives in touch with members of Striving Sisters Speak!!! who will be attending the inauguration. Media can also contact her in Washington, D.C., by cell phone.

Web sites: http://comm.unc.edu/facstaff
http://www.thestaffordfoundation.org
http://www.i4rc.org

College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093, spurrk@email.unc.edu
News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589

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