Leading on Opportunity ED Takes New Role to Direct Financial Security CLT

— A New Chapter for Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter as Leading on Opportunity's Work Continues in 2020

On November 26, 2019, Stephanie Cooper-Lewter announced that she will step down as executive director of Leading on Opportunity to accept a new role directing Financial Security CLT, a coalition of Mecklenburg County nonprofits working to help families achieve greater financial security.

At Financial Security CLT, Cooper-Lewter will turn her focus to a critical area of economic opportunity, financial stability. She will be dedicated to advancing financial security for local families, working with community partners to address inequalities in income and wealth that create barriers to economic mobility, 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,” said Cooper-Lewter. “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.”

“We are grateful for Stephanie’s thoughtful, strategic and tireless leadership in launching the implementation of the Leading on Opportunity Report’s recommendations,” said Leading on Opportunity Council Co-Chair, Andrea Smith. “Our corporate, nonprofit and civic sectors have rallied around this effort, and she has made significant strides in increasing community engagement and identifying critical areas for systems change.”

“At the core of Stephanie’s leadership is her unwavering commitment to racial equality and centering diverse community voices to inform our work,” said Leading on Opportunity Co-Chair James Ford. “This commitment will be important in her new role, and in shaping the continued work of Leading on Opportunity .”

The new role will be housed at Crisis Assistance Ministry but working for Financial Security CLT, whose current members include Care Ring, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Communities in Schools, Community Link, Council for Children’s Rights, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, GreenLight Fund, Latin American Coalition, Leading on Opportunity, Urban League of the Central Carolinas and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

“Financial security is a key indicator for economic mobility,” said Carol Hardison, CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry. “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. Stephanie emerged as the ideal leader for this role, given her deep knowledge of the financial barriers our local families often face.”

The work of Leading of Opportunity will continue forward as the initiative moves beyond its launch phase. Brian Collier, executive vice president at Foundation For The Carolinas and a co-author of the Leading on Opportunity report, will temporarily steward this work when Cooper-Lewter transitions to Financial Security CLT beginning in mid-January.

Some key accomplishments during Cooper-Lewter’s tenure include establishing the infrastructure, strategic direction, core values and racial equity framework of the initiative; launching the Community Impact Alliance that has engaged hundreds of opportunity ambassadors; securing a highly competitive national grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation; and presenting the 2019 On The Table CLT community conversation, with a record 8,000 participants.

Robust community progress has been made toward the broad implementation of the recommendations of Leading on Opportunity’s report. More than $270 million has been raised to increase access to affordable housing; the Mecklenburg County commission voted to implement universal pre-k by 2024, with $6 million raised from the private sector for pre-k teacher scholarships, and multiple companies and organizations have raised their minimum wage, among other successes.