From Chicago roots to Green Bay growth—a journey of family, education and empowerment

Ingrid Parker-Hill greets a friend at the Mobile Black History Museum event on the UW-Green Bay campus. Photo courtesy of University Photographer, Dan Moore.

“No matter if they’re young, old, or what some might call veterans, everybody deserves to be their best self. And so if I can have a hand in making that happen, I’m good to go.”  -Ingrid Parker Hill

Green Bay and Chicago may be the best of frenemies (especially where football is concerned) but Ingrid Parker Hill will tell you that her heart has always belonged to the windy city. “My home is in Green Bay. My heart is in Chicago,” she says simply. “Green Bay wasn’t in my plans, but the experience has truly been a journey.” And Green Bay is better for it.

Originating from the Chatham neighborhood in Southeast Chicago, celebrated for its vibrant African American heritage and culture, Hill proudly bears the distinction of being a trailblazer as a first-generation college student. “I was the first in my family to attend college. Neither of my parents had the opportunity; my mother earned her GED when I was in middle school, and my father, I believe, didn’t complete high school.”

In 1991, Hill embarked on two transformative journeys—motherhood and higher education. “I was a teen mom, so I had my son as a senior in high school,” she said, reflecting on the early days of balancing life and learning. With aspirations of becoming a teacher, she enrolled close to home at Chicago State University. She acknowledges, “My plan was to be a teacher…but four years was a long time.”

Parker-Hill working in her office at GBAPS

After a year of juggling university classes and work, Hill made a change to technical school. “I needed something that I was going to be able to use quickly in order to help take care of my son.” But realizing that her new path to radiology had a bottleneck due to a waiting list, Hill had to change course again, “and so I switched,” she said. Determined to provide for her family, she pivoted to Robert Morris College, and in a whirlwind of academia and motherhood, she emerged with an associate’s degree as a medical assistant in May of 1995.

It was a time of culmination and new beginnings; alongside her academic achievements, she welcomed twin girls into the world. “So now at this time, I have four children.”

Then came Green Bay. As her husband transferred jobs, Hill found herself in a new city with profound apprehensions about the environment in which her children would grow up. A city where she would perhaps continue her own education.

She found a position in Green Bay as a preschool teacher, but on the very first day, she faced a dilemma that stopped her in her tracks. “I just was not sure how my kids would adjust,” she admits. The safety of her children was paramount, and she had reservations about the area’s reception of people of color. “I had heard some unsettling things about Green Bay,” Hill said, “and the fact that my kids would have to navigate the bus to and from school alone only added to my worries.”

With the well-being of her children foremost in her mind, she chose to prioritize their security over the new job. “I wanted to make sure they were safe, physically and mentally. ” she explained, a resolve that led her to put her career on hold to focus on parenting. It was a year spent in the warmth of family, with two of her children at home, the others attending school, and her plans for continued education on pause.

Parker-Hill speaking with students on the UW-Green Bay campus

Green Bay gradually became the setting for a new family adventure, one filled with resources that may not have been as accessible or affordable back in Chicago. And one of the primary resources was UW-Green Bay. “There was an African dance community group that was housed there. They would do drumming and then they would teach African dance.” Hill and company attended every week and began connecting with the greater community. “I could take all of my kids and they could have some cultural experience. The only cost to me was time.”

She began seeking options for continuing her education, and like the move to Green Bay, her transition to returning to college as a student was fraught with doubts, starts and stops. Hill navigated through various institutions, ultimately finding her stride at UW-Green Bay.  “It’s been a process. I tried a couple of other ones throughout my time here, and the time just was not right,” she confessed. But it was the connections—forged through her involvement with the African dance program and collaborations with the Institute for Learning Partnership—that tethered her and made her feel a part of the UW-Green Bay community.

Watching her eldest son complete his degree at UW-Green Bay was a watershed moment for Hill. “Eventually, my oldest son returned to Green Bay to finish his degree… And so at that point, I was like, okay, maybe UWGB will be it.” It was during this time, when faced with a health scare, that Hill realized the time to pursue her own education was now. “I can’t wait any longer because otherwise there’s never going to be a perfect time to go,” she resolved.

Returning to college brought with it a blend of familiarity and new insights. “For the most part, I enjoyed it,” Hill mused, her experience working with children giving her foresight into the youthful nature of the college demographic. She wasn’t daunted by the age difference; rather, she saw it as an opportunity to contribute uniquely. “I just knew that my role might look a little different in that space, meaning what could I offer for them as well as my own learning?”

Indeed, Hill brought a rich tapestry of life experiences to the classroom, a dynamic presence among younger peers. “I think that they listened,” she reflected, emphasizing her intention to contribute without overshadowing. Hill was there to learn, to grow, but also to offer her wisdom in a supportive, unobtrusive way. “I wanted it to be my own learning, but still offer what I can offer in that space,” she affirmed, striking a balance between learner and mentor, between absorbing and sharing knowledge.

In 2015, Hill rediscovered her calling as a Family Engagement Coordinator in the Green Bay School District. She was now helping families connect with the community that she had struggled to connect with years earlier.

Indeed, when her family arrived in Green Bay, Hill could have used the services she was now providing—connecting families with their children’s schools, while fostering understanding and communication between educators, staff, and families. Hill focuses on cultural awareness, aiding teachers and staff in appreciating and responding to cultural differences in the classroom. “I take pride in supporting schools to create inclusive environments that empower historically marginalized staff and allies, aligning with shifting demographics.”

Recognized today as a powerful force in solving for the cultural barriers that she and her family faced when they came to Green Bay, Hill was named a 2022 Woman of Influence in the New North Region. “Ingrid is truly a passionate professional who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make our region a better place by supporting the educational and cultural needs of students and families,” said New North Executive Director Barb LaMue.

And in 2023, Hill added another achievement a quarter-century in the making—becoming a college graduate. Hill earned her bachelor’s in organizational leadership from UW-Green Bay last August.

So why stop there? “I actually started graduate school this past fall,” Hill reports proudly that she started her grad progam at UW-Green Bay for Master of Public Administration. And now, she enthusiastically recommends returning to school, affirming it’s worth the effort— “But to know your why, why is it that you want to do this? What is your purpose?” And that every step forward is worth the effort. “Even if you just have to take one class, you are investing in yourself.”

What gives you a spark?

It’s helping others. No matter if they’re young, old, or what some might call veterans, everybody deserves to be their best self. And so if I can have a hand in making that happen, I’m good to go. So wherever the stars align, that’s where I’ll be.

How has UW-Green Bay helped you find your superpower?

Because it’s given me knowledge. But it’s also helped me build relationships, which in turn, is what helped me decide to come to UWGB. Every rock, given the right environment, causes a ripple effect. We’re all rocks. Think about it.

What inspires you to rise higher?

And so how are you investing in yourself? How are you investing in your circle of influence? That’s your family, your community, and so on. Because ultimately, I want to leave a legacy. I want to leave a better legacy behind for my grandchildren.

What are some of the biggest lessons life has taught you?

We each have a purpose in life. And tomorrow is not promised.

At UW-Green Bay, every person has the power to Rise. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you want to be. We invite you to read more Rise Stories about people from all walks of life who are blazing a brighter future for our region.

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