Larry Parker II Shares Story to Build Community Hope

According to Larry Parker II, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Title IX Coordinator at Elmira College, people who knew him when he was young would not envision that he would become a person with multiple graduate-level degrees, a college director, a community leader, or an author. Yet Parker can claim all of those achievements. They are also why Parker was appointed to the Chemung County Human Relations Commission (CCHRC) and why he was invited to speak at the organization’s recent Annual Breakfast in February 2023.

Unfortunately, Parker was unable to speak at the breakfast due to illness. However, Juhura Shazer, Executive Director of Chemung County Human Relations and Chair of the Human Relations Commission, stepped in and shared Parker’s story. Shazer talked about how Parker dropped out of high school, but then received the mentorship necessary to not only get his bachelor’s but a master’s and how he is now on the path to getting a doctorate in strategic leadership.

“The message Juhura and I wanted to share with everyone at the breakfast was that we have an opportunity to help the next generation succeed,” said Parker. “If you look at the person I was at age 17 or 18, you would have thought that college and career success were not possible. But if I can go through a transformation, then there is hope others can too.”

Parker attributed his transformation to his wife, friends, and mentors who helped him at just the right moments. For example, when Parker started an online degree, he didn’t have Wi-Fi access at home. His friend David Ellis, who is now Executive Director of the Chemung County Youth Bureau, stepped in and helped. He told Parker that he would get up early, stay up late, and do whatever it took so that Parker could get the access he needed to complete his courses.

In another example Parker shared, valuable advice came from a stranger. After going through multiple rounds of interviews for a position he was interested in, one of the interviewers called to say they chose another candidate. Parker summoned the courage to ask for tips and the interviewer spent 40 minutes coaching Parker on how to better position himself for future success.

“For me, it was about having a community around me that believed it was possible,” said Parker.

That’s why today, along with his fellow CCHRC members, Parker helps engage with underrepresented communities in the Elmira region. CCHRC members help people who have experienced racism or bigotry walk through how to make a formal claim with the County agency. They find ways to connect the community together and to highlight the talents of area youth who may otherwise get overlooked. They are also building pathways for young adults to find jobs, especially as those roles become increasingly competitive.

“Many of our youth need mentorship, experience, and resources to transform and thrive,” said Parker.

Parker also uses his CCHRC role to create more bridges between the local community and Elmira College. In his DEI role, he organizes speakers to come and share with EC students about their life journeys and give career and leadership tips.

For Black History Month, Parker helped organize a series of events featuring black professionals from the greater Elmira region. They will share their experiences on a range of topics, including local history, music, and the contributions of black people today in making the history of tomorrow. The events are free and open to the general public.

“My life’s purpose is to participate, contribute, and hopefully benefit the people in my community. I am just honored to contribute any way I can,” said Parker.

“Community is what we are here for,” said Shazer, who also serves as the Lead Pastor at the City of Light Church. “It is the reason to wake up in the morning, and it is what keeps me motivated while I rest. Collaborating with these professionals and community leaders on the Human Relations Commission is a vital part of removing barriers and creating pathways for others to succeed.”

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