The path to becoming the first African-American meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service was not easy for Bill Parker. Still, he hopes to help set the stage for others like him to achieve greatness in the field of meteorology.
In a recent interview with AccuWeather Broadcast meteorologist Geoff Cornish on AccuWeather PremierParker talked about the hurdles he had to overcome to get to where he is now.
Being born and raised in New Orleans naturally piqued his interest in weather at a young age because he was exposed to multiple hurricanes, Parker said. Besides his close experiences with the weather, Parker enjoyed math and science from an early age, but it wasn’t until taking a statistics class in high school that he realized he could turn that interest into for the weather a career of a lifetime.
In statistics class, the teacher started teaching POP — an abbreviation for what meteorologists call probability of precipitation — and that’s when Parker knew he wanted to be a meteorologist.
The college decision was not easy for Parker.
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He originally wanted to go to Florida State University, but was unable to attend school due to financial restrictions, and he encountered similar problems when considering Texas A&M. Eventually, her uncle shared an article showing that Jackson State University had a meteorology program. Since Parker knew about college because his uncle had played football there and knew he could afford it, he graduated from Jackson State, in Jackson, Mississippi.
Jackson State is about three hours north of his hometown and is one of 107 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. In fact, Jackson State was the only HBCU that offered a meteorology program at the time.
Bill received the Modern Day Technology Leader Award at the 2020 Black Engineer of the Year Awards. (Photo via NOAA)
Even though the meteorology program was smaller compared to other schools he was considering, looking back on it, Parker said he was grateful for his time at Jackson State.
“I had a professor, who I always say understood the value of the meteorology degree in my hands before I ever understood the value of the meteorology degree in my hands,” Parker said. “I’m grateful for Jackson State.”
Parker’s trip after college wasn’t what he had imagined either. After the door didn’t open for him on the weather broadcast side, a door did open for him in the National Weather Service after he completed a summer internship at the office in Slidell, Louisiana. .
Parker was then offered a full-time position at the NWS office in Jackson and has since become a weatherman-in-charge, a position he doesn’t take for granted.
There is still a disproportionately small number of black meteorologists in the field, and even though the number is growing, it’s still a challenge for meteorologists of color to get started.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Parker recently spoke with AccuWeather’s Geoff Cornish during an AccuWeather Prime segment about ways to increase diversity in weather.
“When it comes to meteorology, this field that we’re in, there aren’t a lot of minorities,” Parker said, “so job opportunities are tough.”
According to Parker, the Jackson State meteorology program has been around since 1975. Of all the graduates from the meteorology program, only 20-30 percent end up working in the weather business.
Parker said getting in and staying on the pitch comes down to building relationships.
“Rather than coming to hear our story, we need partners who will come and be part of the story at Jackson State University. We need people in the weather business to come visit and meet our students” , Parker said.
Bringing those connections to schools like Jackson State will help open the door to students seeking internship opportunities in the field of meteorology, which could eventually increase even more the percentage of students who end up finding careers in the field. the meteorological company.
“When I was in elementary school, I knew the police were coming — Friendly Officer, we used to call him. The Friendly Officer would come and talk about safety in the neighborhood and talk about what he’s a police officer and what he does,” Parker said in an interview last year with AccuWeather. “Well, we have to do the same thing in the field of meteorology. We have to do [it a] purpose of going to these communities and reaching these children and exposing them to our field, but also giving them hope that they too can become meteorologists… In matters of meteorology and other physical sciences, there just isn’t enough exposure.”
Parker emphasized that exposure and interest in the field of meteorology should be for everyone because weather does not discriminate.
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