Name: Justin Scott Parr
New Profession: Author and creator of the character Sage Carrington
Justin Scott Parr wanted to be a meteorologist–in his words, a “hurricane hunter, tracking tropical storms”–but his introduction to the personal computer focused his career aspirations in information technology, until he took his first international trip. Today he’s figured out how to mix his talents, passions, and interests to create a character he hopes will be a role model for young black girls.
Education: Parr received a B.S. in management information systems in 2002 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s in information technology from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor in 2004.
First Job: After completing his master’s, Parr moved to Silicon Valley and was employed by Oracle, working on website development and interface design.
First Trip: When one of the members of a group trip to Egypt unexpectedly dropped out, Parr’s mother needed someone to fill the spot. His first trip abroad inspired a number of new feelings and thoughts. “I completely loved the experience of being outside the U.S. I really enjoyed the perspective I got by experiencing another culture, another language, and even seeing how people responded to us as American citizens.”
Discovery: After returning from Egypt, Parr relocated to Atlanta to work as a contractor on AT&T’s website, but he longed to travel. For six months, with a camera and a journal, Parr backpacked solo through 11 countries in Latin America. He was most captivated by Cuba, witnessing the ingenuity of its people, like the couple who refashioned a Crisco Oil container into a gas tank for their 50-year-old car. “Everyone was creative, because you don’t have the auto parts store next door. I saw some of the most brilliant ‘engineers’ whose attitude was, it’s just me taking care of my household. Those types of experiences are priceless–people who have a non-traditional kind of brilliance.”
Convergence of Interests: Because Parr didn’t have an itinerary for his travel, he promised to stay in touch regularly by texting and blogging. His tales interested family and friends, especially his 9-year-old cousin Destiny, who was always excited by his reports. Inspired by Destiny’s interest in his travels; their shared love of science; and the dearth of fun, smart books for young girls, Parr created the character and book series Sage Carrington: Eighth Grade Science Sleuth. The series features a young girl and two best friends who solve science mysteries while enjoying a wide range of cultural experiences.
Skill Set: Parr’s technology background has helped him develop a rich and interactive experience that lives online and on mobile applications. Aside from working with a team of illustrators, Parr led the development of the website, “which allows you to become immersed in the world of these characters.” Highlights include a journal that functions like a blog and an interactive map of Washington, D.C., where the stories take place.
Future Goals: In addition to continuing the series, Parr looks forward to developing the project into a brand that will include expansions in the interactive space, merchandising, and TV. “If we can represent ourselves many times in dysfunctional situations, we should acknowledge that we can represent ourselves in a more positive light. I want to give children like Destiny the idea that it’s OK–and cool–if you want to be a scientist or study mathematics.”