Indian American woman to lead poverty alleviation initiative in North Carolina

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Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter (Courtesy: LinkedIn)

Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has been named the executive director of Leading on Opportunity, a group created last year to implement recommendations on how to lift children and families out of poverty.

The recommendations were outlined by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report which was formed in 2015 following a study by Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley, which showed Charlotte ranked last among 50 cities where children were least likely to escape poverty.

The Council on Children’s Rights announced the appointment Jan. 16, in a press release. Cooper-Lewter, 45, an Indian-American with a compelling back story, was chosen from among 100-plus candidates following a nationwide search. She was abandoned at the doorstep of a Sisters of Charity home in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, as a baby, several news reports said. The Kanpur Sisters of Charity placed Cooper-Lewter with an Indian foster family before she came to the U.S. as a toddler on an immigrant orphan visa through international adoption, according to Qcitymetro.com.

“My journey has guided my life purpose to ensure every child – regardless of income, race and zip code – has the same opportunities as yours and mine,” Cooper-Lewter said. “I have given my heart to this cause, and to racial equity. I can’t wait to move to Charlotte to begin the work of connecting people in a way that fosters change. I believe Charlotte-Mecklenburg is ready to do the work.”

She has extensive experience collaborating with both public and private sector organizations as well as with diverse communities. Most recently, Cooper-Lewter served as Vice President of Initiatives and Public Policy for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.

She brings nearly 25 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, previously serving as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia, North Carolina. In that role, she was the first Indian-American CEO in the United Way of the Midlands community partner network.

“We believe we are at a pivotal time in Charlotte’s history. We need every facet of the community to understand that we have a collective responsibility to ensure every child has a chance to prosper no matter their starting point in life,” James Ford and Andrea Smith, co-chairs of the Leading on Opportunity Council, are quoted saying in millmag.org.

Cooper will assume her new position as executive director on Feb. 20.

Cooper-Lewter’s husband, Nicholas, is a social work clinician in private practice who retired from teaching at the University of South Carolina College of Social Work. The couple has two children.

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