From shy student to head of the class

As a kindergartner, Rachael Parmley was hesitant about going to Girls Inc. of Jackson County because she was shy.

But once she began working with executive director Brenda Tracy and her staff, Parmley started to come out of her shell.

From seventh grade to her senior year at Seymour High School, she taught classes. As a junior, she was a part of a team that presented a business plan in front of executives in New York.

She went on to earn bachelor and master’s degrees and now works at Cummins Inc. and is a Girls Inc. board member.

Serving on the board of directors is her way of paying it forward, given the impact Girls Inc. has made on her life, she said.

“They did a lot for me, so now with future girls and my own daughter, they can go there and enjoy it,” said Parmley, 27.

“The first time I walked in the door, I probably wouldn’t even talk to you or make eye contact,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t have progressed in my education without (Girls Inc.) staff encouraging me or being able to present in front of people or be on the board and organize events.”

Parmley said she remembers going to kindergarten half-day and then riding a bus to the Girls Inc. facility when it was on Second Street. That was a big move for her, she said.

There, she would participate in craft or cooking activities with Tracy and other Girls Inc. staff.

“She was amazing there,” Parmley said of Tracy. “If you were shy, you didn’t really feel shy once you got there. All of the employees made you feel welcome. You’re like, ‘OK, this is pretty cool.’”

By sixth grade, she began working behind the “orange counter,” where she checked out gym equipment for girls, which she said felt like a big deal. That’s when she said she started to break out of her shyness.

The next year, she started teaching classes.

Tracy said it was neat to see Parmley make a transformation.

“Every year, you could just see her getting a little bit better and a little bit better,” she said. “You just saw her grow and grow and grow. Then when she got into high school, she was starting to be the one up in front of the class.”

In 2005, when she was a junior, Parmley participated in Corporate Camp, where a team created a product, developed business, financial and marketing plans and performed data analysis. The competition was organized by the Girls Inc. national organization.

Parmley’s group came up with Bling Ring, which involved bedazzling a cellphone.

Her team was one of two from Seymour chosen to present their product and plans in New York City to Goldman Sachs executives. Only four teams were chosen nationwide.

While spending a week in the Big Apple, the Seymour teams also visited the Girls Inc. headquarters. It was Parmley’s first time in the city.

“We met people from Elle magazine, so it was a pretty big deal,” Parmley said. “To stand up there in front of the board of Goldman Sachs and make a presentation, it was definitely like, ‘Wow! This is a big deal.’”

Tracy went along on the trip and offered support and input for the teams as they prepared to present to the executives at the end of the week. She said it was a great moment seeing how far Parmley had come.

“I got to stand in the back of the room and watch this little girl make this presentation, and her voice didn’t quiver, she wasn’t nervous at all,” Tracy said. “She stood up there with all of this confidence, and I’m standing in the back of the room just like a proud mother hen like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at how far she’s come and what Girls Inc. has given her for that experience.’”

Tracy then saw Parmley graduate from Seymour High School, go on to earn college degrees and land a job with a major company.

Parmley said that presentation in New York helped because she had to give presentations in college, and then working in purchasing for Cummins, she has to talk to suppliers and give plant tours.

“I don’t think without Girls Inc. I would be able to do that,” she said. “It really did help me out from age 6 to 18 because you’re constantly working on different stuff, and if you don’t think you can do it, they are like, ‘No, no, come on’ and they just encourage you to do it.”

She joined the Girls Inc. board a year ago, and her responsibilities have included helping coordinate some of the organization’s biggest events, from the Girls Inc. Gala to the Turkey Trot.

Going from being a shy Girls Inc. member to serving on the board, Parmley said, she sees the value of the organization in the county.

“Their motto is ‘Strong, smart and bold,’ and I really do think it helps girls here, and it gives them something to do after school because a lot of kids, their parents aren’t home after school,” she said. “So they can be there learning something, being empowered in some way versus maybe at home or running around where they shouldn’t be. I think it’s a very nice asset for the community.”

Parmley said she plans to have Girls Inc. be a part of her life for as long as possible. Her daughter, Evelyn, was born two months ago, and she said she hopes to see her someday get involved.

“Oh yeah, she’ll go eventually,” Parmley said, smiling.

Parmley file

Name: Rachael Parmley

Age: 27

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Seymour

Education: Seymour High School (2006); University of Indianapolis (marketing, business administration and human resources degree, 2010); Indiana Wesleyan University (master’s degree in business administration, 2015)

Occupation: Purchasing at Cummins Inc.

Community involvement: Girls Inc. board of directors

Family: Husband, Josh Parmley; daughter, Evelyn Parmley, 2 months; parents, Mary and Willard Everhart

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.