Partnership for After School Education

Biography

After only a few years at Legal Outreach, Bethsheba Cooper was already pushing for change, lobbying to extend the reach of the organization’s programs to include a strong afterschool college preparation component for high school students. Two decades later, her program has helped 265 students matriculate at four-year colleges, 68% at highly competitive colleges. 85% of her students graduate from college in four years, 70% with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Bethsheba works 12-hour days and six-day weeks and goes to extraordinarily lengths to find the support and assistance that her students need to succeed. She has established partnerships with social service organizations, secured resources for students with learning disabilities, worked with parents to obtain school transfers, and worked closely with guidance counselors to make sure students are receiving good advice on the college admissions process.

Although she has been promoted several times, she remains committed to working directly with students. She is willing to do anything necessary to help students discover and unleash their full potential, and she constantly challenges her staff to improve the work they do. She is the guiding force behind her program’s success, but possesses a humility that belies the indelible legacy of excellence and achievement she has forged.

Sandy Santana was one of six students who participated in the first year of Bethsheba’s program. According to Sandy, Bethsheba lectured, pushed, prodded, cajoled and then lectured him some more so that he would improve his grades and his writing skills. The son of Dominican immigrants and the first member of his family to go to college, he attended Harvard University, then Columbia Law, and then worked as a corporate attorney for six years before returning to his old neighborhood and to Legal Outreach, where he now serves as its general counsel and deputy director.

When Sandy walked across the stage at his Harvard graduation, he was thrilled to see Bethsheba sitting in the audience because, as he puts it, “She had seen potential in me and refused to see it wasted.”