Gloria Cooper is an educator, project designer, and the “story lady” at Mt. Shasta Library. She brings the message of Christina Baldwin’s quote (above) to her work and relationships. “We need to wake up,” Gloria says. “There is a bigger part of us individually and as a society.” Her work revolves around assisting people to recognize that bigger, more authentic part of themselves, so in turn people can help society evolve to a higher degree of unity – one that connects us to life’s mystery.
While Gloria brings her wisdom and knowledge to everyone she encounters, her deepest passion is in working with youth. “Her commitment to the well-being of youth is inspirational,” says Lori Crockett, Mt. Shasta Library employee.
Gloria’s work with youth began when she was 14 and teaching piano lessons in Philadelphia where she was raised. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in education/humanities, she and her husband Ron, who worked as a mathematician on the NASA moon program, moved to Washington, DC where Gloria began teaching elementary school. After three years, they moved to Berkeley, CA where she taught in the Berkeley school system.
Through her teaching, independent research, and a research project with the Ford Foundation, Gloria became aware of the number of middle school youth who felt disenfranchised and were even committing suicide. “As human beings, our nature is to bond,” says Gloria. “These children had insufficient bonding with their parents or with society. When a segment of society doesn’t have opportunity to bond, they are at risk.”
In 1981, Gloria and Ron started New Age Academy, a private school in Berkeley. The school provided a way to empower youth, giving them an opportunity to bond, and giving Gloria an opportunity to continue her research. One of her goals was to discover why children opted out of life emotionally, intellectually, and physically through suicide. What she discovered was that they were malnourished on emotional and physical levels.
New Age Academy was designed to serve the whole child. The school’s interior offered a relaxing environment reflecting nature, and provided intellectual stimulation through its academic program as well as emotional support through its teaching methods. A well-equipped kitchen allowed Ron, who served as the academy’s chef, to offer students nutritious meals. In this holistic environment, children thrived. “The purpose of our school was to help children transition from childhood to adulthood,” says Gloria. “Everyone needs a society behind them to support them.” She and Ron provided a segment of that society.
The thread of Gloria’s life that had guided her from educator to educator/researcher next led her, in 2007, to Mt. Shasta and to envisioning and designing the Sophia Project, a virtual project she and Ron continue to work on together. The project emerged from a message received from the children at New Age Academy: “We’re okay, you need to talk to the adults.” The Sophia Project plan contains elements needed to enhance the community’s ability to nourish the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential in youth so they can thrive in the 21st century. It is designed to provide and foster the principles and attributes necessary for optimal growth.
A continuing step in Gloria’s work has been volunteering with “Songs and Stories for Young People” events at the Mt. Shasta community library on Wednesday mornings. As well as telling traditional stories, Gloria uses sacred geometry (a term used by archaeologists, anthropologists and geometricians) in her interactions with the children and parents. She explains, “Sacred geometry is the language of the universe. I believe it is important to share this language with children as early as possible. The circle, the triangle and the square are included in the traditional stories and fairy tales I choose for story time.”
“Gloria is a visionary,” says Crockett. “She sees potential everywhere and brings her wealth of wisdom, knowledge and compassion to everything she does.” Gloria’s vision is to create change in the world by assisting people to change themselves. “I want to inspire people to pursue their sacred relationship to themselves, each other, and the natural environment,” she says. “We must remember that our children are the evolutionary forefront of who we are becoming.”
To contact Gloria Cooper, call (530) 926-9830.