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The Parkes and McNally Family Legacy

To understand why Walter and Barbara Parkes are longtime supporters of Starbridge, you would have to know their granddaughter Kristina McNally’s story. Kristina does not tell it often, but agreed to share with us.

"When I was in first grade, I wasn't able to understand what was going on in the classroom. I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. At times, my parents were told I would not go to college," says Kristina.

Kristina's parents, Susan and Jon McNally, threw themselves into researching everything they could. Susan contacted LDA and began taking every class she could find. Jon investigated assistive technologies (AT) that would support Kristina's learning. "I have an auditory processing disorder. I needed everything written for me. To this day, I still use AT: Dragon, Kurzweil, and Inspiration."

Susan was instrumental in a special education support group and other initiatives for parents in the Fairport school district. She also met regularly with Kristina's teachers—even during the summer. Kristina recalls:

"She always wanted them to know what I could do, not just what I couldn't."

In fifth grade, Kristina's parents moved her to The Harley School for more intensive support and its smaller class size. Even with that, Kristina recalls, "It's hard to stay positive when you struggle so much. My parents and grandparents told me to persevere. They supported me through all of it."Susan, Kristina, and Jon McNally at Kristina's college graduation

Kristina's grandparents, Walter and Carmina, helped however they could. Carmina attended workshops and conferences with Susan, and would take Kristina to tutoring sessions. Kristina says, "My grandmother Carmina was like a second mom to me." Sadly, Carmina passed away while Kristina was in 11th grade.

Kristina graduated from high school. She enrolled in St. John Fisher to study education, and had an IEP all the way through college. "I knew I wanted to be an educator. This was my passion."

Kristina earned an undergraduate degree in Childhood and Special Education with a minor in Instructional Technology. She then earned her Master's degree in Literacy for Birth-Grade 12. Today she is in her fourth year as a special education teacher at Jefferson Avenue Elementary in Fairport.

"I am open with parents and students about my struggles. It helps them. I tell the kids, 'It’s okay. If you have to go to school year-round, then that's what you need. Miss McNally did it!'" Kristina’s encouragement helps her students feel more optimistic about what they might achieve.

Kristina's drive to help others is clearly a family trait.

Walter Parkes, Chairman of O'Connell Electric, has been devoted to helping others in the community for years. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Pluta Cancer Center. The Walter and Carmina Parkes Family Foundation aids charities in communities where O'Connell employees work and live. The Mary Parkes Asthma Center at URMC was founded by the family in honor of their daughter Mary, who died at the age of 32 after a lifelong battle with asthma.Walter and Barbara Parkes outside the Parkes Family Conference Room at Starbridge's main office

Walter remarried while Kristina was in college. His wife Barbara has been very supportive of Kristina and the family's commitment to community ever since.

For nearly 20 years, Walter has been a staunch supporter of LDA and now Starbridge. Krystyna Staub, Vice President of Philanthropy, says, "One thing I treasure about Walter and Barbara is that they are always available to listen, to learn about what is going on. They want to do whatever they can to make it easier for children to succeed."

Kristina says:

"Pops wants to keep seeing kids who are struggling succeed. That’s why he keeps supporting Starbridge."

That drive to help others succeed is what motivates Kristina in her work, too.

This article originally appeared in Champions, Issue 2, in Spring of 2017.