Hull Fellows Highlight: Wesley Prater
Before entering philanthropy, Wesley Prater worked on behalf of retired citizens in Ohio. He analyzed health policy in Washington, D.C. He has also studied at institutions like Yale University and Ohio State University.
Through it all, however, he’s only called one place home – Mississippi, where he now works at a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
“I have been fortunate to live in different parts of the country throughout my adult life and travel around the world, but there is no place I love more than my home state of Mississippi,” he said. “The strength, intelligence, success, and love I have witnessed from Mississippians gives me more hope than ever for the state’s future.”
Though based in Michigan, the Kellogg Foundation has made Mississippi a priority place for its investments as part of its work to advance racial equity. Wesley’s work there has focused on health care policy and advocacy efforts.
“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has a long history of supporting racial justice and racial equity not only in the South but across the globe,” Wesley said. “The past year has reinforced the importance of our work to continue working with communities to address the critical needs of children and families, support the nonprofit sector, and tackle issues around racial injustice.”
While his previous work and studies prepared him well for much of his current role, Wesley came to the Kellogg Foundation without much experience within philanthropy. He said SECF’s Hull Fellows program has helped him better understand the sector’s role in helping communities.
“I wanted to develop professionally, learn as much as possible about ways to be an effective leader in philanthropy, and connect with others in the field,” he said. “Rhea Williams-Bishop, our director of Mississippi and New Orleans Programming for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and an SECF Hull Fellows alumni, encouraged me to apply to program to help me achieve these goals.”
Wesley has also had the opportunity to learn from Robert Dortch, the vice president of programs and innovation at the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia. Like the Kellogg Foundation, the Robins Foundation has taken a hands-on approach to racial equity work.
“The passion he has in working toward racial equity is demonstrated in all that he does,” Wesley said. “His knowledge and wisdom provided me with confirmation and confidence that I can lead in whatever role I have. I am very fortunate to have him as a mentor.”
Beyond his Hull Mentor, Wesley has also learned from, and been inspired by, his own Hull classmates.
“During this pandemic, they have continued to push forward and been even more innovative in their work,” he said. “Learning about their efforts in philanthropy and building relationships with them provided me with a greater understanding of how to lead more effectively and be a better program officer for the communities I serve.”
Wesley’s strong commitment to his work and the region is motivated, in part, by a desire to build a better society for his own family, he said.
“As a father of two Black girls, I want my children and all children to live in a racially equitable society,” he said. “Mississippi can move toward this goal and I want to be a part of that change through my work.”