Taylor Parker is on a mission to spread kindness. The current graduate student and program associate at the Born This Way Foundation is using their voice to lead others toward the power of kindness and how it relates to positive mental health and confidence.
“I believe kindness is best inspired through modeling; therefore, I make it my mission to practice kindness in every action,” Parker says. “I even got a tattoo to remind me, permanently placing the words ‘BE KIND’ on my right thumb. It’s my right hand that does everything — holds the door for people, writes letters, holds my fork — and now that hand acts in the name of kindness forever.”
We chatted with Parker to learn more about their role with Born This Way, how they measure success, and the best career advice they’ve ever received.
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So far, you’ve earned two degrees and you’re working toward a third. What’s your dream job?
I don’t have a dream job, but I do dream of holding a strong, dependable role within my community. I’d really love to go for my PhD. I have a strong passion for sharing information and I have a lot of questions I’d love to find the answers to, but I’m really uncomfortable with how inaccessible so much of the research that we’re able to find on these topics are. It’s one of my goals to make sure that any of the answers I find are also available to everyone else.
What’s your relationship like with the Born This Way Foundation?
I started interacting with them in 2017 when I was still in undergrad. I won a grant from them unexpectedly, so I used the grant to put together an event. Some of the team came down to help me put on the event. I realized how much they cared about kindness and the power that kindness has in the world—and the power that young people already have, not just thinking that they are the future, but also that young people are present. They’re here right now, already leading. I knew that was a place I didn’t want to leave.
Four years later you’re still involved with the organization. What’s your role?
I proudly serve as Program Associate for Born This Way Foundation. In this capacity, I support Foundation programming and partnerships, primarily #BeKind21 and our Advisory Board. I’ve been a part of Born This Way Foundation since 2017 when I was selected as the recipient of the Foundation’s Channel Kindness Award in Indianapolis. Between then and now, I’ve been a volunteer, intern, and contributor to Channel Kindness, including being a featured author of New York Times best seller, Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
The thing about being in school for so long is that everyone wants to give you a piece of advice and most of them are hyper-specific. They won’t always apply to you. The best piece of advice that I’ve received, and I try to remember it at all times, is to remember your worth and not do more in the hopes that people will see that you’re worth more. Don’t try to earn your worth in the eyes of others but try to stick to what you know you have.
How do you hope to inspire and impact those around you?
The biggest thing with that is that like many people in my generation, we really just want to be the adults that our younger selves needed. Growing up lonely and having big dreams and not a lot of support to really reach them, I just really want to make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to empower and restore power to young people, whether that’s volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Indiana or spending time with my younger siblings. It’s my life’s mission to just make sure that every young person is heard and believed and supported.
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What does success look like to you?
It sounds a little cheesy, but I mean it genuinely when I say, success for me in the work that I do, and we say this at the Born This Way Foundation, is just seeing and building a kinder and braver world.
Who’s someone you draw inspiration from?
I think one of my top inspirations is Mr. Rogers. I really appreciate the way he was able to ground people in gratitude before they did any work. Even in the graduation speeches he would give, he would ask people to sit there in silence for one minute, thinking about all of the people that loved them into that moment. Then he would go on with everything that he had to say and congratulate them. I think one of the best ways to bring people together and build community is getting everyone started on the same page from a perspective of gratitude.
What do you want other people to understand about plural pronouns?
It’s not necessarily something that other people need to understand. It’s just something that people need to respect and use. So, it’s not mandatory that people I meet or people I don’t meet have an understanding of my gender or any trans-ness or trans-experience. It is mandatory that they listen to us and they see us how we ask to be seen. And they respect that and make sure that they don’t take away portions of our humanity in the interactions that we have.
You’ve described yourself as an avid advocate of asking for help. What would you say to someone who is afraid to take that first step and ask?
Asking for help is really giving someone a gift. Think about it! Chances are you feel good about yourself when someone sees you as a person who could help them. When you ask someone for help, you’re giving them the self-esteem boost that comes from knowing people can rely on them while also giving them the gift of the joy of helping others!
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
A fun fact about me is I was a Youth Delegate for the United Nations General Assembly in 2020.
That sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Can you expand more on what being a Youth Delegate entailed?
I had the immense privilege of serving as a Youth Delegate for the United Nations General Assembly in 2020. Through this opportunity, I was able to work with youth leaders from all over the globe to create solutions to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals. My specific working groups focused on addressing the ever-growing needs of our climate as well as increased mental wellness internationally.
What’re some of your favorite things about Indy?
I really enjoy the centrality of Indianapolis. It’s only a small trip to so many other places (Chicago, Columbus, Nashville) while being a nice spot in its own right.
What’s your favorite spot for a meal or coffee?
I really enjoy Foundation Coffee over on the north side. My favorite restaurant ever since I’ve been in Indy is Three Carrots. We picked this new apartment that we’re in just because it’s a couple blocks away.
What’s a great book you’ve read recently?
I have two! The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (local Indianapolis author) is remarkable. It came from my favorite podcast, so I knew I’d love it before I’d even read it. Secondly, The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs!
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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