At AT&T we are regularly inspired by not only the work, but the character, of our employees. Sheila Parson’s story of perseverance and commitment to improving the future for veterans is a great example of AT&T’s mission at work.
Veteran Sheila Parson knows what it feels like to be uncertain about the future. Sheila was raised in a poor part of Detroit. And although she pushed herself to do well in school, she was told repeatedly that because she lived in a single-parent household, she would not be able to afford to further her education or plan for a bright future.
Sheila took her future into her own hands. She joined the military to help pay for college and went on to earn her PhD and two master’s degrees. She also manages a nonprofit organization that she formed, QSA Foundation. The foundation encourages business leaders to help homeless children and military families in their communities through training, fundraisers and volunteering.
In addition to running QSA, Sheila volunteers at a local homeless shelter, serving hot meals to those in need. But while it is important to ensure warm, hearty meals for homeless veterans and their families, Sheila knows there is a larger issue that needs addressing.
These veterans, so accustomed to the support of a team, need support transitioning back in civilian life and training to succeed. Through the QSA Foundation, Sheila works with AT&T to provide Wi-Fi for homeless veteran activities around Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee and pre-paid phones to homeless teens. She also shows them how education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs can help them succeed.
Shelia organizes her colleagues to speak to teens and their parents about career paths and she works with local colleges to bring programs like robotics to events to show students how exciting a STEM career could be. Along with the VVW (Vietnam Veteran Wives), the QSA Foundation members also speak to previously incarcerated homeless veterans on finding ways to reintegrate into society through job recommendations, housing help, interview skills and class suggestions.
Among many complex issues surrounding homelessness, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. Companies across sectors are stepping up to address this issue. In 2013, AT&T announced a goal of hiring 10,000 veterans over the next five years. Since making that commitment, the company has hired more than 9,500 veterans.
At AT&T we support our employees in their endeavors in and outside of work. Learn more about the opportunities and employee resource groups available for our employees, including veteran specific programs.