Louise Cooper Center and scholarship fund paying it forward on Exuma
Chairman and CEO of BAF Global Group I. Chester Cooper recently renamed the company’s Georgetown corporate offices “The Louise Cooper Center”, in honor of his late mother.
The event was also the launch pad for the Louise Cooper Scholarship Fund, which gave two full scholarships to Exuma locals for the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) to further their education.
It’s Cooper’s way of paying it forward out of respect for the way the island’s community and his mother helped shape who he is today.
The renaming occurred on a clear Exuma day late this summer, as family and friends of the late Alice Louise Cooper, affectionately known as “Ms. Baby”, gathered at the two-story complex to honor her life and contributions.
Ms. Baby was a fisher, farmer, teacher, preacher and staple of the Little Exuma community; she was mother to Cooper and his 11 siblings, and a sterling example of the timbre and character of the people of Exuma.
The center, home to BAF Financial, BAF General and Cash N’ Go, is also home to #teamcooper, a community empowerment initiative Cooper started to help empower Exuma’s people.
“I’ve had occasions to say before and I’ll say again, all that I have achieved, all that I am is because of this humble lady from Forbes Hill, Little Exuma,” said Cooper.
“The scholarship that we will launch today reminds me of her philosophy on education and the quote by Horace Mann, who said that education is the great equalizer.”
Exumians Raynelle Romer, who is studying cosmetology, and Nekaro Darling, who is studying welding, each received a $2,500 scholarship from the fund.
Cooper admits that he and his siblings didn’t grow up with much. Ms. Baby, who died in 2009 at the age of 82, worked tirelessly to care of them all after her husband passed, but she always insisted her children get an education.
“And there would be no exception,” Cooper said.
“You were going to college as all of her children did, or you were going to get a trade because nobody can fire you from a trade.”
Cooper said he and his siblings were most honored to help others in their mother’s memory.
“I think, perhaps, most significant for me is that today my siblings and I are paying it forward,” he said.
“And for those of you older ones who don’t know what that means, when someone does something for you, you must pay it forward by doing good for someone else.
“So in 1989 when I decided I was going to Canada to college, I had no idea how I would pay.
“I didn’t have one dime, for what it’s worth, to rub against the decks.
“And so I told my former teacher of my desire, he believed in me, he spoke with his father, they corralled a few of their friends and through their generosity and a partial scholarship from the Ministry of Education, and through the help of my older siblings, I was able to go to college. I was able to get a good education, that has become the foundation of the successes that I have had in business.
“And I do this with great pride, this is what paying it forward is all about.”