Working nine to five, Dolly Parton is helping others make a living.
Country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton and her team at Dollywood Parks & Resorts created a tuition-free plan for their employees effective on Feb. 24. According to ABC 7 News, all full-time, part-time and seasonal employees will have access to this educational opportunity and not need to worry about paying off student loans.
Herschend Enterprises, the owner of Dollywood, is responsible for providing this financial compensation. They consist of privately owned enterprises, which together, hold the title of America’s largest themed attractions corporation.
The CEO of Herschend Enterprises, Andrew Wexler, believes that this effort will enable endless opportunities for their employees without burdening that financial stress.
According to Forbes, Wexler said “Whether it’s to pursue a new dream or advance their career with us, we care about our employees’ personal and professional growth, because we believe that their futures should be grown with love, not loans.”
Assistant Director of Sacred Heart University’s Greek Life, Kathryn Ionta, was able to experience that love firsthand on a family trip to Dollywood.
“It was one of the best trips we had ever taken. I remember feeling an intangible sense of wonder walking into the theme park unlike I had ever felt at other, more well-known parks,” Ionta said. “It wasn’t until I got older that I learned about all of the good Dolly Parton has brought into this world, specifically to her local community. She has clearly created a place where employees love to work which, in turn, creates a lasting imprint for their guests.”
According to Forbes, in addition to eliminating Dollywood employee’s student loans, Parton has also focused on advocating for childhood education through Imagination Library.
Inspired by her father’s reading and writing disability, Parton established Imagination Library in 1995 to provide children with the resources to read at a young age. According to Billboard, the mission is to send one book per month to children enrolled in schools in Sevier County, Tennessee, Parton’s hometown.
Parton said to the Imagination Library’s website, “When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true. I know there are children in your community with their own dreams. Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.”
Ionta noticed a similarity between the philanthropy of Imagination Library and one particular Greek Life organization on campus.
“Specifically at Sacred Heart, Phi Sigma Sigma puts its mission into action through their partnership with local schools and backpack and school supply fundraising drives,” said Ionta.
Parton’s philanthropic acts don’t stop there. According to Fox News, she donated $1 million to fund coronavirus research conducted at Vanderbilt University in 2021.
In an interview with U.K.’s Awesome Radio, Parton said “I probably get a lot more credit than I deserve, but I was happy to be part of that and to be able to try to stop something in its tracks that’s really become such a monster for all of us.”
Despite her long list of donations, upon hearing Parton’s name, philanthropist may not always come to mind for young Disney fans.
“I think of ‘Hannah Montana’ when she played Aunt Dolly,” said senior Kaylie Mallegol. “I know that sounds silly, but as part of the Disney channel generation, that was the first time I ever heard about her.”
While Mallegol may think of her role on Disney, Ionta believes Parton’s generosity is at the forefront of her character.
“If there is one ‘celebrity’ to celebrate, it is surely Dolly. I don’t believe I can think of another individual who has used all of her success, both in influence and wealth, to help as many people,” said Ionta