RICHMOND – Virginia Excels, an education advocacy organization focused on K-12 education, today announced that Taikein Cooper will serve as its next executive director. Cooper succeeds the organization’s founder, Eva Colen, who has taken a position as policy adviser to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
“I can personally attest to the impact that educational inequities have on a child’s future, and how it affects our communities,” said Cooper. “The bedrock of a vibrant democracy is a public school system that meets the needs of ALL students; that’s why I’m excited to be leading the charge as Virginia Excels moves from its incubation phase to advancing key education initiatives in Richmond and throughout the Commonwealth.”
“This fall we will launch our parent advocacy program in Richmond to help give parents and students the tools, skills and training to be advocates for education at the local and state level,” added Cooper. “We will also begin advocating for policy initiatives at the local and state level that are best for kids. I look forward to building support for this organization and putting big ideas into action.”
Born in historic Prince Edward County, one of the five counties in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, Cooper graduated from Southside Virginia Community College and Prince Edward County High School through a dual-enrollment program, before attending college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 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, Cooper saw first-hand how political decisions affect the social welfare of constituents. Cooper then led a private behavioral agency, which served nearly 100 clients throughout the Commonwealth.
Community organizing and activism has always been central to Cooper’s life. Long before Cooper 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, Cooper 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.
Most notably, in 2012 Cooper ran in a special election for Prince Edward County Treasurer at just 24 years old. At 25, Taikein was asked to run for US Congress in Virginia's 5th Congressional District in the 2012 special election. Since then 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 being engaged.
Founded in 2016, Virginia Excels is a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities. The organization is focused on Greater Richmond and at the state level with the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia Excels is an affiliate of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. 50CAN supports local leaders to advocate for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address. Founded in 2011, 50CAN has grown to a network of 50+ advocates across 13 state and local organizations working together to reimagine American K-12 education and democratize education advocacy in communities across the country.
About Virginia Excels
Virginia Excels is a 501c3 education advocacy organization that is working 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. To learn more about Virginia Excels, visit www.virginiaexcels.org.