Orlando's Lauren Cooper has been inspired to change the world ever since she was a little girl. Now, more than ever, she continues to show the drive and passion to reach that goal! Thanks so much for Be[ing] Robin Hood!
What moments inspired you to realize changing the world is a passion of yours as well as make it part of your work?
I think your passion is always with you, perhaps not one or two moments but it does take all the right ingredients and circumstances to really see it and act on it. Growing up, my grandfather was an international peace diplomat. When he traveled to the U.S, he would always share his speeches with me, or I’d sneak a peek at his writings. Somehow, I think he got through to me, so I knew that one person really could make a difference because he embodied that for a lifetime. My mother’s also very empathetic, she’ll tear up listening to a sad story on the news, or smile at everyone in the grocery store. As a kid, she told me, “you never know what someone is going through, so a smile can really make their day.” I think if you want to change the world, something has to really motivate you from within. When you give people hope, you give them a purpose, but you have to provide solutions if you want the world to be better when you leave it one day.
How would you say the Social Entrepreneurship program at Rollins College affected your interest to become a global leader?
I was a Communications graduate and a Sustainable Development minor, but it all ultimately tied back to social entrepreneurship’s values. I want to be a vehicle that supports change, and storytelling is what’s memorable. People want to connect, engage, and grow with other people. I took the inaugural course “Leading Change” and I slowly realized patterns unfolding for me. Dr. Michelle Stecker always spoke to the entire class like she felt we were competent, untapped diamonds in the rough. That class opened my eyes to a whole world where people built their lives and careers around transforming the lives of other people. I was hooked. It was awesome seeing the college back the program up, send students to the Clinton Global Initiative, and become Ashoka certified. After attending a Net impact meeting on campus and researching, I realized there were hundreds of thousands of kids my age with dreams as big as mine in Net Impact worldwide. I knew I found my place, somewhere where it was fun and adventurous to make something good happen.
Can you tell us about one or two of the projects you’re working on and what you plan to accomplish with the given outcome?
Right now, I’m the Communications Manager for the Florida Student Power Network, a higher ed coalition across the state that connects students to organizations with civic and social justice missions. We encourage every student to follow their passion, but we recognize that one person’s passion is never isolated. Food deserts, farmworkers’ rights, climate justice, racial equality, the wage gap: it’s all part of this ongoing movement millennials are embracing. It’s really exciting to watch people further their passion or simply find it for the first time. That’s timeless. I’m also thinking about pursuing a venture that makes graduations cheaper and more sustainable with a social focus. I’m always eager to help social enterprises and startups though, particularly on the communications, PR, and marketing fronts.
How has traveling played a role in your life so far? Do you plan on incorporating travel with work in the future?
Wow, right in the feels with that one. Well, my long-term goal is to be a digital nomad, or someone that performs most of their work digitally, so that I can travel the majority of the time. However, I also see how much room there is for me to give back in my own communities in Florida and Orlando, so we’ll see. Traveling is something I was blessed to do even before I could speak, and I don’t take that for granted. In college, I studied abroad briefly in Costa Rica and Vietnam and both experiences affect me every single day. I also traveled to events all over the country, to places like Seattle, Savannah, and Asheville. Everywhere I went, there was always a chance to get out of your comfort zone and I love that feeling. There’s something about opening your heart and mind to saying “yes.” When you go on a vacation or take a trip, you enter the mindset that “this is what I make of it,” and we have to hold onto that perspective in our everyday lives.
What advice would you give to millennials as far as making their dreams come true, and making a significant impact on our world?
It takes a leader to say “no.” I used to think if I cared about something, I had to tie myself up in it. The fact is that you can’t say “yes” to everything without compromising what you can contribute. When you lean towards something over and over again, you’ll realize where you’re meant to go and dedicate your energy.
With that said, don’t draw yourself a path either. Life is unpredictable, and you might miss out on your goals if you’re too stubborn to make a shift for the better. Impromptu internship? Sure. Changing your major? Do it. Remind yourself that nobody is going to read your story more than you will, and let that affect how you write it.
Lastly, you don’t have to make a significant impact on the whole world. I admire that desire, but there’s nothing wrong with changing the immediate world around you. Vote in your local elections, volunteer for a local nonprofit, or pay it forward at Starbucks, because every big change always starts with one small one. Small does not mean insignificant -- just look at the sun compared to the universe.