George Cooper’s younger sister, Monique, convinced him he needed to change the way he was living. "You get to a point where reality hits you. You realize you're going to be 40 soon. Do you want to keep running the streets? There's no retirement plan in that. My sister really put into my brain that it's time to move different and start thinking about a family and doing good work."
Cooper had graduated from Henninger High School in 2008, come to Onondaga Community College for a brief period, and left. More than a decade later, his sister convinced him it was time to come back.
In the spring of 2020 he enrolled in OCC’s Human Services degree program. Many years after leaving Henninger, his experiences with his high school guidance counselor stayed with him and convinced him he wanted to do the same for young people one day. "She had a room in the basement of Henninger. It had psychedelic pictures, calming music, yoga. She would have us sit in a circle and talk about our problems. She was super cool. It's so important to get to kids at that age. I'd like to be the last line of defense. I think it would be a great thing to do.”
During his time on campus Cooper has learned the value of getting involved outside the classroom. He was co-chair of this semester’s Unity Day, is a member of the Extraordinary Men of Distinction Student Advisory Board, and a member of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council. “I’m a fan of building and bringing everyone together. If we can come up with a plan to do that with everybody, the world will be such a better place.”
Cooper credits Maurice Brown and Eunice Williams with being his primary influences at OCC. Brown is a Success Coach in the School of Liberal Arts and the leader of the Extraordinary Men of Distinction. Williams is the college’s Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer. “He’s a powerhouse and I love what he’s trying to do and build here. And she’s probably my favorite person here. Surrounding yourself with people like that tells you you can do it if you just work for it.”
This December, at age 34, Cooper will complete his degree. He plans to transfer and continue working toward his dream of being in a position to help high school-aged youth. “When Monique gave me that speech, it really got through. She advocates for me and let’s me know how smart I am. She’s a shining star. She convinced me something had to change and it did. I’m proud of myself. It feels great!”