Cynthia Leonor Garza
PHILADELPHIA—When Travis Parker, a professor at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, Calif., saw the need to help guide young African-American men, he didn’t just volunteer—he co-founded a new institution to empower these youth. For making a difference every day in the lives of his students and youth in his community, Parker will receive the American Federation of Teachers Everyday Hero award tomorrow at the AFT Higher Education conference in Philadelphia.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. I want to give back to the world because I have received so much,” said Parker, who is a professor of physical education and athletics.
Parker helped found the Alpha Academy, an outgrowth of his work as director of education for the Zeta Beta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. The academy runs a series of workshops where men who are professionals meet with boys ages 12 to 18 to discuss decision-making, motivation, academic performance, teen pregnancy prevention and career goals. In the seven years since the academy was founded, Parker hasn’t missed one session and often volunteers 10 to 12 hours a week. In addition, he works with the Brothers of Kuumba, an organization that teaches adolescent African-American boys through the African elder tradition; sponsors the Black Student Union at a local high school; and mentors four different families of various ethnicities. He also gets his college students involved as both mentors and mentees.
This is the second year of the AFT Everyday Hero awards, which are given to AFT members who go above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in their workplaces or communities. This year, there were more than 350 nominees, and five semifinalists were selected for each AFT division (Teachers, Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel, Public Employees, Higher Education, Healthcare and Retirees). More than 5,000 people voted online to select the winners.
This year’s Everyday Heroes are being honored at their divisional conferences. The other higher education semifinalists were Lilliam Rosado, New Jersey City University (N.J.); Francis “Jerry” Hopcroft, Wentworth Faculty Federation (Boston); Jim Miller, San Diego City College; and Glen Martin, Green River Community College Federation of Teachers (Auburn, Wash.).