Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter is a longtime leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, devoted to the cause of equal opportunity for all. She is the Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity, charged with addressing the finding that Charlotte ranks last among the 50 largest U.S. cities in upward mobility. Dr. Cooper-Lewter came to Charlotte in 2017 from Columbia, S.C., where she served as Vice President of Initiatives and Public Policy for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. With assets of $110 million, the Foundation invested more than $67 million statewide over 20 years to reduce poverty. Joining the Foundation staff in 2009, she managed the Foundation’s organizational strategy and mission effectiveness, ensuring community engagement and impact. Her signature portfolios included supporting fatherhood, immigrant families, kinship care and advocating for public policy system changes. She previously served as President & Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia - the first Indian American CEO within the United Way of the Midlands community partner network. While living in Minnesota, she worked as a school and hospital social worker, as well as in child welfare. In all, she brings nearly 25 years of experience to her nonprofit and philanthropic service. Dr. Cooper-Lewter’s inspiring story informs her passion. Difficult beginnings as a little girl and challenging young adult years taught her to see the infinite possibilities in any situation - no matter what statistics predict. She graduated in 1995 from Bethel College with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. She went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota in 1999. In 2012, she received her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work. In 2013, she completed the Certified Personal and Executive Coaching Program through the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute. In 2015, she graduated from the Spring Midlands Diversity Leaders Initiative through the Riley Institute at Furman University, and remains a Riley Fellow. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Southeastern Council of Foundations, and previously served as a Board member of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. She received the 2017 Alumna of the Year Award from the University of South Carolina College of Social Work. In 2017, she also received the International Women's Day Women's Rights & Empowerment Network's SC Trailblazers Award for her work and advocacy in philanthropy to address poverty paving the way and supporting women and girls to achieve their goals. One of 10 selected among more than 70,000 alumni, in 2018, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development for her leadership in the nonprofit world and promoting equal opportunity for all.
Community Impact Director
Yuly Rodriguez came to the United States at the age of 8 from Colombia along with her parents. From early on, Yuly learned the value of a supportive community. Yuly has over twelve years of experience leading social service initiatives and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She began her career as a Preventive Case Manager at The Lower East Side Family Union in 2006, where she was able to cement her desire to hone in on community leadership and services for the betterment of all. She previously worked at New Destiny as the Director of HousingLink, a rapid re-housing initiative aimed to help fill the gap of affordable housing for survivors of domestic violence and their children. In 2008, she led a financial literacy initiative while working as Manager of Prospect Plaza at Neighborhood Trust Community Partners cooperating with various city officials to aide access to affordable housing to over 300 NYCHA residents. Yuly has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in psychology from City College of New York and a Master Degree in Public Administration from Metropolitan College of New York. Yuly fell in love with Charlotte two years ago and decided to relocate her family. Although the move was two years in the making, Yuly is eager to contribute to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
Don M. Thomas is a thought leader, public servant and transformation-oriented practitioner. Don has dedicated his professional life to systems change, utilizing a transformation-oriented approach of solving immediate community issues while facilitating systems change. Don most recently served as a Community Partnership Coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where his major responsibilities included creating comprehensive systems of support for students and schools by engaging families and community partners. He also serves as the Mecklenburg County Violence Prevention Committee Chair. Don is a Chicago native, where he worked as a Youth and Family Counselor supporting adjudicated youth, and a proud United States Army Veteran. Upon moving to Charlotte to join the rest of his family, he served as the National Outreach Coordinator for Exodus Foundation organizing a national, multi-city initiatives that took a systems approach focusing on disrupting the pipeline of African Americans into the criminal justice system. Don is certified in Advanced Youth Development (AYD), Anti-Racism Training and Organizing, Conflict Transformation, Trauma Informed Care and Peace Building. He received his Bachelor Degree in Politics and Government, as well as Biblical and Theological Studies from North Park University in Chicago. He earned a Masters Degree in Religious Leadership with a concentration in Social Transformation from Chicago Theological Seminary. Don has been married for 12 years and has 3 children.
Community Impact Director
Areas of Focus: College & Career Readiness
Kevin Loux has a background in technology, economics, and law. Kevin most recently served at a bipartisan non-profit economic development organization led by a sitting Governor and Congressman as Director of Strategic Partnerships in Kentucky focused on transitioning the next generation into careers for the new economy. In addition to his economic development experience, his technical expertise positioned him to lead software development teams serving as a Scrum Master and Product Owner. His work experience and certifications in agile, scrum, and lean six-sigma methodologies enable him to creatively solve problems through technology to deliver increased value and improved efficiency. This unique perspective has enabled him to develop strategic plans for educational and workforce development efforts along with the strategic selection of KPIs and metrics for an evidence-based approach. Kevin completed his four‐year Bachelor Degree in two calendar years; receiving a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Business Economics from the University of Central Florida. He also received his Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky while attending as a recipient of the Provost Fellowship. Aside from his formal education, technology has been an interest of his since a young age. Kevin lives in Charlotte along with his fiancée Tammy, and together they own a home in the city.
Proud mother of three, Kimberly Cross manages the day-to-day logistics, operations and offering key administrative support. Kimberly brings more than 20 years of combined administrative experience in education, non-profit, corporate and philanthropic sectors. She previously devoted 13-years as a Charter School Administrator, helping to incubate and replicate the nation’s first all-male charter school, Urban Prep Academies, located in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Chicago. DePaul University alum, Kimberly's creativity, dedication and passion for forging relationships, along with writing, research and knowledge of non-profits and fundraising ensures Leading on Opportunity operates smoothly.