"I aim to be a trailblazer."
Author: Erika O'Shea
Published: Thursday, 21 Jan 2021
Image caption: Stanton Parker II, JA Volunteer, Senior Advisory at EY
Stanton Parker II is on a mission to live a purpose-filled life. In the past year, the up-and-coming Advisory Senior at Ernst & Young has sought to maximize the time and energy he puts into to the world. Stanton explained, “Working from home my teammates aren’t here. I’m not traveling, and I used to travel a lot for my job! When you get rid of all the sexy stuff, what is it that you’re really doing? I’m digging deep on my purpose to make a bigger impact.” One path to self-fulfillment has been acting as a high school program leader with Junior Achievement. He felt called to volunteer with JAKC to provide kids the knowledge and inspiration he missed out on when he was growing up.
Born and raised in Wyandotte County, Stanton dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player. “A lot of kids in my community think it’s the only way out. They spend a lot of time playing basketball. It seemed attainable for me too, so I didn’t think of anything else.” Although a pro basketball career was not in the cards for Stanton, the lessons he took away from watching his brother play college basketball made an impact. “It showed me that if you really want something, you have to put in the time to be good at it.” Stanton pursued an accounting degree at the University of Kansas, eventually landing two coveted summer internships with consulting and tax powerhouse Ernst & Young (EY).
Upon graduation, you might expect Stanton to join EY in an entry level role, but instead he decided to make a different strategic move. “I found a company to sponsor my master’s program. It was important to me to avoid getting in a lot of student loan debt.” This tactic led him to employment at BNSF Railway in Texas, eventually returning to Kansas City to work for the Kansas City Southern Railway Company. Three years ago, the loop finally connected when he landed a position back at EY. “What I do at work is connect with people. Knowing I can authentically help others be the best versions of themselves is what I’m all about.” Stanton rounds out his work life with other creative and philanthropic pursuits. “I want to know I’m making an impact. It’s why I like volunteering with JA. I also have entrepreneurial endeavors to fuel my creative juices. I’m a writer with my own blog and I have a clothing line highlighting the heritage of Kansas City, Kansas.”
A common thread in Stanton’s life is championing representation. “I aim to be a trailblazer. There aren’t a lot of black accountants. My mission is for kids to say, ‘Stan did it, so I know I can do it too.’” As President of the Kansas City chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, Stanton is leading the way for representation in his industry and seeks to inspire the next generation with Junior Achievement. “Financial literacy, what JA is all about, is HUGE for me. As a young kid I didn’t have any visibility into what an accountant does. Now, I’m trying to build that pipeline. I want kids to see that you can be an accountant and know it’s more than doing taxes.” Taking charge of inspiring future black accountants is one way Stanton hopes to add accountability to corporate DEI initiatives. “By doing this work now, if a company says the pipeline isn’t there, I can point them towards what we’ve built.” Stanton is optimistic about current efforts to improve racial equity in Kansas City. “We’re having some very candid conversations in Kansas City right now. People are willing to learn – that’s the best place for progress to happen. But we also must move on actionable items. It’s not only to feel good.”
One of those steps is changing the culture around financial literacy in communities like his. Stanton hopes to flip the script through JA. He reflected, “a lot of people in the minority community don’t talk about money growing up. It’s a private topic. There isn’t a transfer of knowledge from generation to generation.” Partnering with a college fraternity brother, he built a summer basketball program to empower young men to envision their futures. “As a requirement to play, every kid had to complete a JA program,” Stanton said. He had to persevere in connecting with his pupils, adding, “you can imagine how hard it was to get their attention, but that was exactly the crowd I wanted to reach. You want to be an NBA player, but if that doesn’t happen what other careers are out there? How much money do they make? What could your future look like?” Utilizing JA curriculum gave Stanton a natural path to synthesize his personal experiences with important takeaways. “The JA lessons were so simple and relatable. I believe financial literacy is one of the biggest things you can do to change someone’s trajectory. I’ve always aligned with JA’s mission.”
Stanton encourages JA kids to build financial habits from a young age. “It’s never too early to have a plan. Even your allowance and graduation gifts… have an intention for that money! As a kid you have nothing to lose. Invest money. Budget. Focus on your life plan and use your money to get what you want out of life, whatever that may be.” Helping JA kids bring their futures into focus has in turn helped Stanton find new clarity and direction in his own life. “I want to make sure what I’m doing aligns with what is important to me. I don’t want to have the ghost of my dreams surrounding me at the end. I don’t want to wonder, ‘what if.”