Anthony Cooper; Certified EcoLeader and Alumnus; Florida A&M University
The National Wildlife Federation EcoLeaders Career Center is celebrating the motivating stories and career accomplishments of young professionals making their names (and a difference) in the sustainability movement. NWF EcoLeaders staff has interviewed this group of change-makers and rising stars that we call “The EcoLeaders Top 50 Inspirations.”
Certified EcoLeader and Alumnus
Florida A&M University
David Corsar: Looking back at your experience with NWF, how has working on your project and becoming a Certified EcoLeader help you think about your career path?
Anthony Cooper: As an Environmental Studies major, it helped me to see the different paths that are available in the sustainability field and helped ensure that I am on the right path for me.
DC: What was the top skill that you learned in your professional development with these experiences?
AC: The top skill I learned was time management – knowing how to prioritize needs versus goals and keep track of where the project is going.
DC: How did you find out about the NWF EcoLeaders program?
AC: I found out through a former student, Jomar Floyd. He was talking about the EcoLeader program and the certification and indicated that it was a good certification for students to apply for and receive.
DC: What are you up to these days? Where are you working or studying now, and why?
AC: Currently I’m at Florida A&M University. I’m a senior and finishing up my last semester. I’ll be graduating with a bachelor’s from the environmental studies program. I’m the Vice-President for the FAMU green coalition and a Project Management Intern. I’m looking at pursuing a master’s program at a different university in the next academic year and am also working on finding a job in my field of interest.
DC: Can you tell me a little bit about your internship?
AC: I’m working with the Sustainability Institute as a Project Management Intern. The institute was given funding to start an EcoLab, so I’ve been helping to coordinate that along with my supervisor. We have a garden on campus now, and the vegetables we grow – and the fruit we will grow once the trees start producing – are donated to the surrounding community. We are also working on ways to to distribute some of the fresh produce on campus that we’re growing.
DC: What would you say is your personal mission/EcoMission for sustainability?
DC: What motivated you to begin this path?
AC: :I guess I can say my initial interest in environmental science or the environmental field came from when I was in high school – 9th grade or so – I went to the Morehouse College Upward Bound Math Science Institute where I won the Environmental Science Excellence Award, and so from that point on I pretty much was set on the environmental field. I started out as an Environmental Science student, but I decided to move over to the Environmental Studies program. My university is one of the few universities in Florida that has an environmental studies program; they did that to increase the number of minorities in the environmental field.
DC: Who are your primary “influencers” or inspirations in the sustainability movement?
AC: I would say Majora Carter and Van Jones. I found out about Majora Carter last year when I started watching Ted Talks. I saw her talk where she was focusing on how she was able to green – as she put it – her “neighborhood ghetto.” One area was a waste site, and she was able to turn it into a park. And with Van Jones, looking at environmental justice issues and the environmental field and trying to promote more minorities into the green workforce.
DC: Have you had any mentors or career coaches assist you in developing your career path?
AC: I have some guidance in school, but not necessarily a mentor. My dad always said to find people that are doing what you want to be doing and look at what path they took. And so I’ve looked from a distance from those people as role models – whether that’s reading in books about them or even getting to know them.
DC: About the Campus EcoLeader Certification that you’ve received, if you had it on your resume and were at a job interview, and they asked about it, how would you describe the certification?
DC: What advice would you give to newer students or perhaps high school students who want to make a difference for sustainability?
AC: I would tell them to look for people that are doing what they want to do and to research about those people and find out what path they took to get to where they. That doesn’t mean to necessarily take the same pathway, but it’s helpful to know what steps they can take – what colleges to look at, what degree they can get, certifications, etc. I think establishing role models and following up on those people and seeing what they are doing and where they are going next. Also, one of the things I learned was to look at job markets and Bureau of Labor Statistics data to learn about job outlooks to see if there is going to be jobs in certain areas.