Whitley found his passion for service and action during his junior year of high school after reading the story behind Falling Whistles, an organization dedicated to ending the war in Congo. During the next two years he explored his philanthropic interests by working with a variety of nonprofits and accumulating over 600 hours of community service. Whitley’s interests were solidified his senior year during a mentorship with the CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. This mentorship – essentially an unpaid internship – helped him discover his passion for helping at-risk youth, particularly in the area of education. After graduating in May 2010, excited to put his new nonprofit knowledge to use, Whitley founded Wishing Works Inc., an organization that pairs peer and professional mentoring to help at-risk youths discover and pursue their dream careers.
Arriving at Vanderbilt in the Fall of 2010, Whitley became involved in the Global Poverty Initiative, organizing speakers and events to promote awareness of and sustainable solutions to poverty around the world. Through his work with events like Jessica Jackley - Founder of Kiva, Sean Carasso - Founder of Falling Whistles, and Dores for Pakistan, Whitley quickly became Vice-President of GPI. Realizing that his intended majors of Environmental Engineering and Economics didn’t fit his interests and involvements, Whitley soon transferred to Sociology and Human and Organizational Development before second semester. During the Spring of his freshmen year Whitley focused his efforts on GPI events and expanding Wishing Works through the development of a college scholarship program. Soon his hard work paid off when, after reviewing over 200 applications from around the country, Wishing Works awarded a scholarship stipend to a high school senior in the graduating class of 2011.
That summer Whitley spent his time working as the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hibbett Sports in his hometown and further developing the mentoring program for Wishing Works. Eager to return to school, Whitley began the Fall 2011 semester as the new President of Global Poverty Initiative. Soon after the school year started Whitley coupled his loves of youth education and cultures by joining Teach Twice - a social enterprise which sells cultural children’s books to fund educational initiatives - as the Director of Marketing and Creative Design. That Spring, after months of diligence, Teach Twice released their first book, My Precious Name; both written and illustrated by native Ugandans, profits from My Precious Name go towards building a secondary school in Nakikungube, Uganda. Later that semester, after hosting a speech by Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, Whitley became involved in TFA’s Rising Leaders Fellowship and Lead Now Initiative; he has used these programs to continue the development and expansion of Wishing Works.
This summer Whitley will be developing programs for The Salvation Army – Boys and Girls Club of Canadian County and establishing a newspaper to be written and sold by the homeless community of Oklahoma City with fellow Ingram Scholar Rachel Morris. Joining the Ingram Scholarship Program as a junior in the fall of 2012, Whitley is excited to learn, grow, and collaborate with the Ingram community.