Rachel Stanley was raised in Gwinnett, metro Atlanta’s most diverse county by population. She was also raised to understand the importance of diversity and the dangers that can arise in its absence. “My family is Jewish, so I grew up learning a lot about the Holocaust.”
As she got older, Rachel was shocked to learn many of the discriminatory views that had led to the Holocaust still exist. So she took action and chose a career path that would lead her to serve Atlanta’s refugee and immigrant communities.
Stanley, a Master of Public Policy student who will graduate in July, is the development associate at Tapestri, a metro Atlanta nonprofit organization that works to end violence and oppression against immigrants and refugees. The organization is focused on eradicating human trafficking and domestic violence.
“I got into this work because it’s all about humanity,” she says. “This work is especially important in today’s climate, where discussions about immigration can be polarizing.”
In her role educating others about Tapestri and its clients, Stanley spends a lot of time combating misconceptions people have about refugees and immigrants. “Immigrants and refugees want things like safety, shelter and security. These are basic things all human beings want and deserve regardless of geographic location or ethnicity.”
She hopes the work she does with Tapestri will help effect change on a larger, political scale. “I chose to study policy so I can continue to be an advocate for these marginalized groups,” she says. “It was the best tool for me to create the most change.”
Soon she will begin a new volunteer position as the policy chair of the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies, which brings together 18 Atlanta-area organizations that serve refugees. In this role, she will work to raise awareness about policy issues that affect refugees and help advocate for change.
Stanley views her professional and volunteer work as hands-on ways to help change policies and lives, and she encourages others to get involved in any way they can. “We can all make a difference by doing things like voting and volunteering on a campaign.”
Her devotion to the populations she supports recently landed her a 30 Under 30 Nonprofit Leaders Award from the Young Nonprofits Professional Network of Atlanta. “It was an honor to make the list,” says Stanley, who has been affiliated with the group for years. “Young professionals want to network to build their careers, and the organization provides them with tools and resources to do so. It is useful because many nonprofits don’t always have the resources to add networking and training opportunities into their budget.”
Before deciding to get an M.P.P., Stanley worked several years at nonprofit organizations like the Center for Civic Innovation and the Southern Center for Human Rights in downtown Atlanta, where she enjoyed getting a first-hand perspective of Georgia State’s large, urban university. “I appreciated the diversity of the student base, and the school’s public policy program is so revered and well-known. For me, there was no other choice than the Andrew Young School.”
Stanley says she will continue to keep diversity at the core of what she does because, as far as she’s concerned, “We are all in this together.”