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Alumni Spotlight: Timothy Parham

Timothy Parham is our alumni spotlight today! Tim is a graduate of Central High School (2004) and of Reinhardt University (2010). He first joined 21st Century Leaders in 2001 as a rising sophomore in high school and has been serving with 21st Century Leaders since 2006, first on the Summer Leadership Team and then later as a Summer Institute Director since 2018. As of September 2022, he is a full time 21CL staff member, serving as the Director of Programs and Operations! “21CL solidified my passion for helping others and gave me the foundational skills of youth development.” – Tim Parham

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I recently started working with 21st Century Leaders as the Director of Programs and Operations. I began my journey with the organization as a rising high school sophomore in 2001 and to have the opportunity to oversee its programs 20 years later is an honor. I am still soaking it all in!

I am also the founder of The MAP Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to equip young men ages 12-22 with a support system to achieve their goals and become self-sufficient adults. I started The MAP Foundation because I know how it feels to want to achieve a goal but need guidance and genuine support. I love the fact that I can utilize my skills and resources to support the next generation.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, performing on the stage, and traveling.

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college and after?

I started my journey with 21st Century Leaders in 2001 and during that time it was different from what it has grown to be now. Mr. Bob Watson, the founding Executive Director, had an active role and I always loved listening to his leadership speeches.  He had the confidence in public speaking that I wanted to have. He also always made every student feel special. I learned a critical lesson from those times: the art of building relationships. I’ve used that skill in every new opportunity I’ve been given.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

21CL solidified my passion for helping others and gave me the foundational skills of youth development. What I learned as a student and while working as a class facilitator during the Summer Leadership Institutes led me to work with YELLS, Inc. for seven years, in all its three programs-Mentoring, Community Action Café, and the Afterschool Program. After, I worked with Communities in Schools of Georgia, where I had a caseload of more than 100 students. This is when I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of data and how it can be used to accelerate student growth.

I believe that the skills I have accumulated along the way have prepared me for my current leadership role serving as the Director of Programs and Operations at 21st Century Leaders.

Do you have a memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peers, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?)

I have lots of 21CL memorable moments! The first was as a student attending one of the programs and realizing that leadership has many definitions.  My opportunity to lead came when asked to publicly speak and at the time, standing in front of a group of people and speaking had always been a challenge for me. After that I got the opportunity to work with the summer staff for the first time. Over the years, I’ve figured out that it’s when you are vulnerable that you are your most authentic self and that’s what people remember.

Another ‘aha’ moment I had was when I realized that networking really works.  I will never forget Jeremy Foreman, one of the 21CL summer staff during my high school years. He had the kind of energy that was contagious. He was just a joy to be around and our relationship grew when I came back as a summer staff.  When I got to the point in college where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. I reached out to a lot of people for support and guidance. He was the only one that responded and he introduced me to a person that changed my life. Her name is Dr. Tamara Harper. The networking skills that I learned from 21CL gave me the opportunity to travel the world singing with the Atlanta Opera.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so , how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

Yes! Over the years I have gained so many jewels that I use daily. I learned that using the 3 C’s of communication, cooperation, and compassion is not just a leadership tactic that 21CL exposes but it should be a lifestyle. Out of the three, the one that I use the most is compassion. I love to motivate people to be the best version of themselves.

In addition, being a part of 21CL always reminds me that great leaders are always great followers of other great leaders. I have had so many leaders I looked up to that paved the way for me to be the Director of Programs for 21CL and I am determined to use all skills that I have learned over the years and impact the world.