Meet Mario Parker-Milligan, Stand for Children Oregon’s State Organizing Director.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Mario had advocacy in his blood before he even finished grade school. After spending third grade in an advanced reading program, he found himself reading out loud before his school board by year’s end, advocating for continued funding for the program he valued so much. At the early age of just nine, Mario was learning the power of his own voice.
As he grew older, Mario didn’t just use his voice, but learned how to amplify it, too. “While I was at Lane Community College, the challenge wasn’t just to be heard, but to have the most impact in what we were fighting for,” he explains. “We weren’t just learning in our classes each day – we were learning to organize and fight for what mattered most to us, like increasing college affordability, cultural competency and sexual assault services.”
Mario’s passion to help others only grew after college. He took a job as the Equal Rights Organizer for the Oregon Student Association (OSA) – one of the nation’s last remaining student-run, student-lead, non-partisan, statewide organizations. Over the course of five years, he committed himself to addressing issues like culturally-specific curriculum and ethnic studies. He rose the ranks to Legislative Director and then Executive Director of OSA, focusing on leadership development, legislative and campus advocacy, and building power for college students by running one of the country’s largest and most effective non-partisan voter engagement programs.
Most recently, Mario focused on recruiting people of color, women, LGBTQ folks and people under 35 to run for local office in Oregon and Washington. He is steadfastly committed to electing public officials who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and ensuring they meet those communities’ needs. “The most important characteristic for a political candidate is someone who brings their true self to the service of others,” he shares. And in that context, he looked for leaders to make a difference on issues like needs-based financial aid, sexual assault prevention, bullying prevention, and other ways of helping those most in need.
Mario brings his lifetime of advocacy and organizing experience with him as he joins the Stand for Children family. We’re thrilled to welcome his passion for creating lasting and much needed change for the most vulnerable among us. “I was always taught to give back, and education has been a cornerstone of my personal and professional development,” Mario explains. “Given those two perspectives, I know we’re not doing enough for our students. If education is the silver bullet, we’ve got to really lean in, and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.”