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United Way of the Piedmont hires new Director of Advocacy

United Way of the Piedmont is proud to announce Emilee O’Brien as its new hire for the first ever Director of Advocacy.

The new position within United Way was made possible by the ‘StriveTogether’ grant that pushed for the advancement of local and statewide policy. O’Brien’s role will also serve as a joint position with our partner Spartanburg Academic Movement.

“I chose United Way and SAM for their shared commitment to closing opportunity gaps relating to educational attainment, economic mobility, and community health outcomes,” O’Brien said. As new Director of advocacy, O’Brien says she is ‘excited to plant roots in the Spartanburg community.’

United Way and SAM are excited to strengthen their commitments to advocacy. Together, with similar agendas, solid strategies, and a new director, their efforts will bring policy change that amplifies success for the community.

President & CEO of United Way of the Piedmont, Paige Stephenson says the new position was a natural partnership for United Way and SAM.

“When we’re looking at the overlap between us and SAM, everything we’re about from a policy-advocacy perspective is dealing with economic mobility, education and health. For SAM, they’re leading with the education piece and they’re trying to create statewide public policy efforts and they aren’t just looking at education in a vacuum, but they’re taking a whole-child approach. Whenever you’re doing that, you’re taking into account things that deal with the economic mobility of the family and the stability of that families’ housing and income. You’re looking at their access to healthcare, so as we look at expanding our commitment to advocacy it was a natural partnership for us to create.”

Head of Spartanburg Academic Movement, Russell Booker, said O’Brien’s enthusiasm and unique skill set will drive community action

“Above all, she has a passion for education and will work to help our organizations champion a policy agenda aimed towards the betterment of our children and communities,” said Booker. “This position will accelerate our advocacy efforts, amplify the voice of public education and shepherd equitable policies on behalf of Spartanburg’s children.”

Emilee is a Political Science and Poverty studies graduate of Furman University. She attained her master’s degree in Educational Transformation with a concentration in advocacy and Policy from Georgetown University. She interned at Riley Institute’s Center for Education Policy and Leadership where she participated in research and intergroup dialogue. She was also a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for Social Justice and Community-Engaged Learning.

About United Way of the Piedmont

United Way of the Piedmont is a local nonprofit that fights for the education, financial stability, and health of every member of our community. Our mission is to connect, engage, and inspire people to transform our community. We are more than fundraisers. We forge unique partnerships, find new solutions to old problems, and mobilize the best resources by inspiring others to join the fight. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to not just survive, but to thrive. Learn more at

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