2024 Tillman Scholar

Parrish Gaines

Vanderbilt University

“Overcoming adversity has strengthened my resolve and deepened my capacity to serve as both a mentor and leader. It is a privilege to guide others as they seek success.”

Parrish Gaines, a Smyrna, Tennessee native, exemplifies the power of hard work, resilience, vision, and a commitment to lifelong learning. Determined to give back, he focuses on empowering the next generation through scholarship, mentorship, and athletics. As a first-generation college graduate, Parrish’s journey began at the United States Naval Academy, where he earned a B.S. in Political Science in 2015. Throughout his college career, he was a dedicated Division I football player, starting in 46 consecutive games and serving as Team Captain in 2014. 

After graduating, he coached football at the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island before moving into the Human Resources Community in 2017. As a Human Resources Officer, he found fulfillment in helping others achieve their potential. During his service in the Navy, Parrish furthered his education, obtaining a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University and another in Sport Administration from the University of Louisville. He also established the Create Your Own Path Scholarship. 

After leaving the Navy, Parrish had the opportunity to coach football at the University of Cincinnati, where his players greatly benefited from his military background. The discipline he instilled contributed to the team’s appearance in the 2021 College Football Playoff. Currently, Parrish is a middle school teacher and high school football coach while also pursuing an MBA at Vanderbilt University. He plans to found a nonprofit aimed at transforming the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, guiding them toward bright futures.