Growing up, Akilah Cooper didn’t always have a lot of examples of strong women wanting and doing more, but she knew she didn’t like what was happening in the world and that she wanted to help make a positive change. She started working towards her degree in Social Work at Norfolk State University in 2013 but had to put her education on hold in 2014 after the birth of her son. She knew she still wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, so she joined Eggleston as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) at the Portsmouth Laundry facility in 2016. At Eggleston, Akilah had the opportunity to see real people doing good things for individuals with disabilities and she saw strong women who weren’t afraid to strive for positions of authority where they could make an even larger impact. At Eggleston, she was inspired. So, after the birth of her daughter in 2017, Akilah decided to go back to school and finish her degree.
By this time, Akilah had fallen in love with the operational work of commercial laundry and realized she was good at it. She recognized that while operations are traditionally a man’s world, this field needs the nurturing nature of women. Akilah shared how her team is made up of individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as those with substance abuse and emotional needs, but she strives to work with each employee to help them reach their full potential and learn new life and career skills. So, while she continued to take on more responsibilities at Eggleston’s Portsmouth laundry facility, she transferred her credits to Strayer University and began to work on her associate degree in business.
With the ongoing support of her team and her family Akilah has recently completed her associate degree in business. But she is not done yet. She said she is only 9 courses away from completing her bachelor’s degree and then she has her sights set on a master’s degree.
When asked about her motivation for this degree, she talked about how she wanted to do this for herself to prove that she could do more; however, throughout the process she realized this experience influenced more than just her. Her children watched her determination and work ethic as she kept studying even when she was tired, and it has encouraged them to work harder on their own schoolwork. Her employees gave her encouragement and strength to keep going when life tried to get in the way. Akilah has also used this experience to encourage her team to strive for their own personal goals stating “Education is power. Keep studying. Keep going. It’s worth it on the other side”.
Congratulations Akilah on your academic achievement and we hope you have a great time at your graduation on December 10th.