Anna Parrish was drawn to Colorado even as a teen, despite never having visited. Born in Greenville, N.C., Parrish moved with her family to Virginia before venturing back to attend college at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. It was her love of the mountains that led her to earn her degree there, and the mountains eventually brought her to the Centennial State.
Today, Parrish is manager of fund development at the Pikes Peak office of Big Brothers Big Sisters Colorado in Colorado Springs. She spoke with the Business Journal this week about building her career in the community she never thought she’d love.
How did you end up in Colorado?
I always wanted to live in Colorado. I’d never been here and came out around my 25th birthday to visit. Six months later I moved.
Even before Google was a thing, I remember doing internet searches for apartments in Denver. I was maybe 16 and didn’t have family out here or anything. I just knew I wanted to be here. I always loved the mountains. My family moved to Virginia when I was 10 or 11 but I went back to North Carolina and went to school at Appalachian State, which is in the mountains.
What did you study?
Communications and public relations with a minor in political science. I considered law school but, when I graduated in 2009, it didn’t seem like a good option because of the recession and lack of jobs. Plus my grandfather told me I was too honest to be a lawyer. It’s funny, though, because a lot of people in my family have a law degree.
What did you decide to do?
I wanted to do something in communications. I enjoyed it and felt I was good at it. When I graduated, I started volunteering with a congressional campaign. The following January I was asked to be a press assistant. I started there and it morphed into way more responsibilities. … I was asked to start fundraising and I knew I wanted to go into the nonprofit or advocacy world. That’s why I looked at law school. But when I got the skill in fundraising, I thought all nonprofits need help in fundraising, so that was the transition to this world.
First impressions of Colorado Springs?
The first time I came to Colorado it was in December and I visited Fort Collins, Boulder, Estes Park, Vail and Aspen — but not the Springs.
My parents have friends here. They came out six months after my first trip and I came with them to Colorado Springs.
This definitely felt like a bigger city. I’m really drawn to small cities. I liked Manitou Springs when I came out because it reminded me of the main street at Appalachian State.
It also felt like the Springs was kind of segmented. Just in the four years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen so much change. Even though this is a big city, it doesn’t feel that way. I run into people all the time and I’m very comfortable getting around.
I never thought I would have applied for jobs here or find myself here, but I’m so glad I did.
What should people know about BBBS?
For Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, next year is our 100th anniversary. We’re affiliated with the Denver office — we’re the Pikes Peak office. We do a lot of collaboration with Denver, but we also have our own campaigns. … The Mentor 2.0 program is our newest program. We are starting our second year and we’re in partnership with Atlas Preparatory High School.
Across the U.S. there’s one counselor per 471 students. This program … matches one professional with one student for their entire high school career. Last year we had about 120 freshmen at Atlas Prep and matched every one of them. This year we have 136 freshmen to find matches for, and we’re still looking for mentors for that program. A lot of these students will be first-generation college enrollees and attendees.
And you’re in contention for a big grant?
Yep. It’s the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant, and it’s in its second year. They had more than 2,000 submissions and have narrowed the finalists to 200. For 10 days people could vote for those causes and the top 40 of the remaining 200 receive a $25,000 grant.
There are only three causes in Colorado — one in Boulder, one in Granby and we’re the only southern Colorado cause.
The $25,000 would go directly to support the Mentor 2.0 program. … Hopefully people can vote [neighborhoodassist.com] Friday [Aug. 25], which is the last day voting is open.