What’s Next For The Greater Columbus Urban League? A Candid Conversation With Susan Cooper, CEO/President
Susan Cooper, the interim administrator who has led the Urban League of Greater Columbus the past two years, was recently named the league’s new president and CEO pending certification by the national organization. We spoke with her about her appointment and her vision for the organization.
Courier: In making the announcement of your appointment your board chairman, Bishop L. D. Skinner said; “Susan Cooper is the right choice to lead the Urban League of Greater Columbus She has successfully and flawlessly led the organization through change and adversity, and along with the board of directors, she helped save, rebuild and sustain the Urban League.” How do you feel about that?
Cooper: I am humbled and proud. My selection is a vote of confidence to continue the direction that the board and I have taken, and I am pleased to be asked to serve in this position. The Urban League is a ‘ministry’ to me, and I take great joy in helping people, and fulfilling our mission to empower and equip others to break their own cycle to poverty, and help them equally access the dream of being in the economic mainstream of jobs, education, affordable housing, and healthcare.
Courier: Recently it was announced that the Urban League of Greater Columbus would not be receiving funding from the United Way. How will that affect your programming?
Cooper: First, it is important to clarify that we were denied funding for a specific program that does not mean we are no longer eligible as a United Way agency. We provided United Way with a proposal asking them to fund our annual Summer Youth Employment program. Although they did not approve the funding for this particular program we still very much believe in the program and its merits and are excited about our opportunity to hire 50 youth for (the program) instead of the targeted 100 that this grant would have allowed,” We have to build a better case and make a stronger presentation next year and we look forward to the opportunity to do just that.
Courier: As the new CEO what’s your vision for the organization?
Cooper: As you can imagine my vision and mission is the same as that of the organization; to enable African Americans to secure economic self reliance, parity, power and civil rights. I am encouraged that we are reaching our goals by the increase of participants we have served over the years. When we started the revitalization of the organization in 2012 we had fifty (55) individuals coming through our doors seeking assistance , programming and training, last year 1800 people came to us seeking help.
Courier: What programs are you currently providing?
Cooper: We have three signature programs; Of course we’ve already spoken about our Summer Youth Employment and Job Readiness Program that serves high school students, ages 16 to 18, and college students, ages 18 to 24. Youth participate in workshops that cove topics such as customer service, dressing for success, answering telephones, resume building, interview skills, business etiquette, work ethics, conflict resolution, problem solving, budgeting and finances. Participants spend three to four weeks working at local businesses, corporations and nonprofit organizations.
Our Prisoner Reentry Program offers workforce development and training services to previously incarcerated individuals so that they can successfully re-enter the labor market. Our program facilitates a career pathway committee and takes a “skills-based” training approach tailored to the needs of employers and clients, supporting individuals through the attainment of industry-recognized credentials, graduate equivalency diploma and the pursuit of higher education.
Finally our Comprehensive Housing Counseling provides FREE private consultation between a housing counselor and the client, FREE assessment of the client’s situation to determine individual need, FREE information and advice about various programs available to help clients acquire and maintain affordable housing. Homeowners and renters, regardless of financial status, may receive counseling for a variety of reasons. Clients are offered individual counseling as well as group workshops to insure that they completely understand their situation, the options available to them and that they are satisfied with their chosen course of action.
Courier: As a businesswoman with a successful real estate and mortgage company how are you going to balance your time between it and the Urban League?
Cooper: For my entire working career, which includes 20 years of banking and financing alongside eighteen years selling real estate I’ve been able to multi-task. For the past four years, I have managed to continue that balance between my business and the Urban League. I have been able to do so because I am fortunate to have loyal, competent and experienced employees like Pat Allmendinger and Carrie Day who have 30 and 40 years respectively in the banking and finance business. They are well equipped to handle the day–to-day operations. In addition, I am excited, as both of my daughters, Whitley and Ashley Cooper both graduates of Kennesaw State University have joined the business. Whitley who is Vice President and Director of Marketing and Business Development is a licensed mortgage consultant and real estate agent. Ashley, a licensed real estate agent serves as our Vice President and Director of Real Estate Sales.
The Urban League of Greater Columbus is one of only 2 Urban League organizations in the state of Georgia. It was founded in 1971.