Less than two years after her arrival, Stephanie Cooper-Lewter will step down from her role as executive director of Leading on Opportunity to concentrate on helping families achieve financial stability.
Cooper-Lewter will become the director of Financial Security CLT, a coalition of local nonprofits working to improve financial security for families. According to a Leading on Opportunity spokesperson, Cooper-Lewter’s last day will be in January, after which she will transition to Financial Security CLT beginning mid-January.
Why it matters: Leading on Opportunity was created in 2017 to implement a variety of recommendations that sprang from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report. The report was funded with private and corporate dollars after a Harvard-Cal Berkeley study revealed that children born into poverty in Charlotte are unlikely to escape it.
In her new role, Cooper-Lewter will continue to address upward mobility through community partnerships to eliminate income and wealth inequalities, particularly for people of color.
“While it was a difficult decision to leave the Leading on Opportunity team, I’m excited to build on this work at Financial Security CLT,” Cooper-Lewter said in a statement on Tuesday. “By concentrating on helping families achieve financial stability and build assets – and, in particular, addressing wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap – we can create significant generational impact.”
The coalition is a civic engagement program housed at Crisis Assistance Ministry. It currently includes member organizations such as Leading on Opportunity, Urban League of Central Carolinas, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, Community Link, GreenLight Fund, Council for Children’s Rights and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.
Carol Hardison, CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry, said Cooper-Lewter was the ideal leader for the role due to her deep knowledge of the financial barriers local families often face.
“Financial security is a key indicator for economic mobility,” Hardison said in a statement. “Many of the Leading on Opportunity report’s recommendations require or are buoyed by a family having financial security, and we know that it’s the work of more than one agency.”
Cooper-Lewter was chosen from more than 100 candidates to become Leading on Opportunity’s executive director in February 2018. She guided the work in several focus areas — early childhood education, college and career readiness, family stability, social capital and segregation.
Community progress toward the list of recommendations includes the launch of a universal Pre-K program, students taking advantage of career and technical education programs, and more than $270 million raised to increase access to affordable housing.
Brian Collier, executive vice president at Foundation For The Carolinas and a co-author of the Leading on Opportunity report, will oversee the work once Cooper-Lewter steps down.