We are Virginia Excels

 
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Our Mission

Virginia Excels serves as a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities.

Our Vision

We work for the day when every student in the Richmond region and across the Commonwealth has equitable access to an excellent public education, regardless of race or family income.

 

Our Focus

In our pursuit of educational equity, we concentrate on policies and practices that advance racial and socioeconomic justice—both in and around schools—so that every child has the chance she deserves.

 

Our Approach

We serve as a resource for facts, research and best practices in public education so that our entire community can access information about critical issues facing our students and schools.

We partner with those closest to public schools—families, communities, service providers and educators—to determine the greatest obstacles to our children’s academic success and to identify solutions with the greatest potential to advance educational equity.

Through research and engagement with a national network of experts, we identify opportunities to remove these barriers and set up our children, especially those from historically underserved backgrounds, for lifelong success.

Together with our partners, we provide opportunities for our community to advocate for changes in policy, practice and culture that foster equity and excellence for our students and families

 
 

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Meet our team!

 
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Taikein Cooper, 
Executive Director

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Taylor Keeney, Communications Consultant

Taikein Cooper has a deep affection and strong commitment to local politics and helping people engage in the American political process.

Born in historic Prince Edward County, one of the five counties in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, Cooper is a 2006 graduate from both Southside Virginia Community College and Prince Edward County High School. He has lived in Virginia his entire life, except to attend college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Long before Taikein could drive, he was canvassing throughout Virginia’s communities as an 11 year old to help elect his D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teacher, Travis Harris, as Prince Edward County’s Sheriff.

During his college years, Taikein led various political action committees, served on the prestigious Chancellor’s Search Committee and even led a grassroots effort to Jena, Louisiana, calling for justice for the infamous Jena Six

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010, he returned to his true passion, fighting for the betterment of the people of Virginia. As a counselor in a correctional center in Chesapeake, VA, Taikein saw first-hand how political decisions affect the social welfare of constituents.

Most notably in 2012, Taikein ran in a special election for Prince Edward County Treasurer at 24 years old. Throughout his campaign, his age remained a hot topic, since many young adults are not active in political affairs.

The trials that he faced in his campaign, coupled with young people becoming energized, inspired Taikein to engage them in both his campaign as well as teaching them how to chase their dreams. At 25, Taikein was asked to run for US Congress in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. 

Taikein resigned as the Chief Executive Officer of a private behavioral agency, which served nearly 100 clients throughout the Commonwealth to enhance his personal consulting firm. Since the 2012 special election, he has been speaking at universities and colleges, community rallies and other local institutions across the nation about the importance and power of young adults in today’s political environment and the importance of living for YOU. He co-hosts the socio-political podcast, Ain’t No Free Lunch, with Ms. Danielle Greene.

taikein@virginiaexcels.org

 

 

Based in Richmond, Taylor is communications and public affairs consultant with over nine years of experience working in political, nonprofit, and issue-based communications.

Taylor got her start working as press assistant to Mrs. Cindy McCain on John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president. In 2009, she joined Bob McDonnell’s campaign for governor, working for him for almost five years, ultimately serving as Governor McDonnell’s press secretary. She briefly left the governor’s office to work as communications director for Bill Bolling’s campaign for governor. 

Following the McDonnell Administration, Taylor led regional communications for almost two years for Teach For America (TFA), a national nonprofit that works to recruit, train and support leaders to teach for two years in low-income schools. Upon leaving TFA, she founded Taylor T. Keeney, LLC, a communications and public affairs consulting firm. 

Taylor is a native of Southern California and graduated with honors from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She is a member of the Higher Achievement Richmond advisory board and serves as a volunteer mentor on Tuesday nights at the organization’s achievement center at Binford Middle School. Additionally, she helps Higher Achievement with its communications efforts in a volunteer capacity. Taylor also is a member of the public relations committee for ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides support for children with cancer and their families, and a representative on the Goochland County Recreation Advisory Commission.

taylor@virginiaexcels.org