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Whitley OConnor

Class of: 2014
Hometown: Ada, OK
School: Arts and Science
Major(s): Sociology, Human and Organizational Development

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 the 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 in the area of education. After graduating in May 2010 and excited to put his new nonprofit knowledge to use, Whitley founded Wishing Works Inc., an organization that created a new peer-professional mentoring system to help at-risk youth 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 sustainable solutions to poverty around the world. Through his work organizing events, Whitley began to develop a love and passion for social enterprise. This passion led Whitley to join Teach Twice, a social enterprise which sells cultural children’s books to fund educational initiatives, as the Director of Marketing and Creative Design. After helping develop, release, and promote Teach Twice’s first book, Whitley began work on a new project, The Curbside Chronicle.

The Curbside Chronicle is a general interest magazine that employs and empowers homeless and low-income individuals in Oklahoma City. After 20 months of research and development, Whitley launched the magazine on July 1, 2013 during an Ingram Scholarship Summer Program Faculty Fellowship with Professor Jim Schorr. Whitley will continue to work full-time developing The Curbside Chronicle during the Fall 2013 semester through his Human and Organizational Development internship before returning to Vanderbilt in the spring to finish his degrees in HOD and Sociology.