Raised by a grandmother with alcohol addiction in a dysfunctional home in a trailer park in the small, rural Pike County town of Brundidge, Alabama, Grainger Community Counseling and Wellness Clinic Director Dr. Latofia Parker knew from an early age that academic success was the way to rise above her circumstances.
“My mom was 16 when she had me and had to drop out of school, so my grandmom primarily raised me,” Parker said. “We grew up very, very poor.”
“I’m a first-generation college student who never saw anyone in my family go to college. When I became aware that a person could achieve academically, I wanted that. In fourth grade, I had a teacher who used to put on a Black History Month program. She had me recite Langston Hughes’s ‘I, Too, Am America.’ There was something about those words; they stuck with me. I didn’t have to be invisible.”
That mindset took her a long way. She joined academic organizations, transferred to a higher-achieving high school, applied to a private college, found a way to pay for it, graduated, went to graduate school, started a family and worked multiple jobs throughout.
While pursuing her doctoral degree in counseling education and supervision at The University of Alabama, she interned at UM and eventually became an adjunct professor.
She did all this while working at the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services as a rehab counselor with a caseload of 200 clients.
“I’d start work at 7 a.m., drive to Tuscaloosa for grad school at UA, then drive to Montevallo to teach,” she said.
In addition to being the director of the new Grainger Community Counseling and Wellness Clinic, she owns Parker Counseling Services, is an associate professor of counseling at UM. She was recently selected by The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling as the two-year delegate representing Alabama on the Counseling Compact Commission.
Parker said she chose to specialize in counseling and psychology because of her family.
“My cousin had a mental illness, my mom didn’t finish high school and just observing the dysfunction in my environment made me very interested in understanding human suffering and the mind.”
Parker has taught at Montevallo for more than seven years. She said she loves the University and owes a lot to her excellent mentors.
In fact, she didn’t become full-time faculty at UM until her mentor, Dr. Stephanie Puleo, retired, creating an opportunity for her.
“Montevallo is close to home, and my experiences with the people at UM from leadership to students have been nothing but positive.”
She and her husband, Marcus Parker, have two children, Austen and Jackson.