Women Who Inspire: Frances Huntley-Cooper

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​FrancisHuntley-CooperRsz.jpg​... if you work hard, you can succeed. 

What inspires your passion for these issues?

My degree and profession were in social work so I saw gaps in various systems. Youth without support and guidance or various systems that didn’t work for people of color. Regardless of limited positive media coverage of Black students achieving, there are students genuinely looking to make something of themselves and would seek out resources, programs and individuals that may help them in their journey.​

I always like to give credit to my social work background that has kept me connected to issues affecting our students of color. Now with parents working two or more jobs to make ends meet, there is less time for parent engagement with their own children. I see that in student recruitment and retention for the NAACP ACT-SO program, I see that for student commitment  to complete scholarship applications for college, I see that in students not taking advantage of resources right here in their own community…in service organizations, Churches and extra-curricular school activities.​

All of these barriers to African Americans students falling behind keeps me motivated and engaged in trying to reach one student - trying to make a difference and trying to be a role model with a message of if you work hard, you can succeed. There are many community people who will reach out to help if you apply yourself.​

What has been your greatest success?

The success of the NAACP ACT-SO program - a year-long enrichment program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.​ ​Its success has been the volunteers: those who serve on the ACT-SO committee, the mentors and judges that work with our students, the resources both financial and in-kind that ensures our students are taken care of for competition, the positive media coverage, the support of the local high schools and colleges, the parents and students themselves. All volunteer their time as students find a school-work-community balance to participate.​

Entering our local unit’s 6th year, we have had three (3) National Silver medalists and two (2) students selected to participate in the NAACP Arts and Entertainment STEAMage Intensive held in Los Angeles prior to the NAACP Image Award which students attend. These opportunities and amazing students who take advantage of our program give me joy and a huge smile on my face as I watch each one achieve a place on the national scene. So proud of our students, both at the local level and national level, because they are developing various talents and skills that will move them forward in life.

What would you say to other women and girls who want to make or support change in their community, state, world?

“If you see something, say something” applies to any need in our community. What change would you like to see in your own life is the same change others would like to see. You are not alone. Someone has to step up to take the lead and get the conversation started. I never envision that I would be in politics more less run for Alderperson (as a write-in candidate and win) or later run for Mayor and win. For all who know me, they will say that you never have to ask Frances what she thinks about anything…if she has an opinion, she will tell you. 

I have learned that not everyone is comfortable with saying things out loud and that’s okay…not everyone is alike. However, for many who won’t speak out, I have found that they will talk to me “off record” to say they agree, support or add other viewpoints to help make my case stronger. Some feedback is immediate and feedback has come years later when someone will tell me where they heard me speak and some will quote me as to what I said. I share this to say that you never know what impact you have on anyone. I consider myself to be a good listener which helps me on my mission. No one can do anything alone. Just do you and be open to feedback! I know when I have nailed it and I also know…oops I should have or could have said or done something differently. I believe if you are true to yourself, you will know your strengths and weaknesses. 

​​There are many folks waiting to be asked that can complement you and assist you to reach your goal. Acknowledge them because without them...you may not be successful. This advice comes from a little girl raised in NC and was a follower not a leader. This advice comes from a person who was taught that you were to be seen but not heard, if we want something from you we will ask and you don’t need to brag about yourself...let others do that. So I am still trying to overcome a lot of the advice or early upbringing as I have stepped outside some to these boxes. I am still a work in process. 

What I saw, learned and heard as a child growing up in the South has helped me to become a leader today. I was also fortunate to be born in NYC so I had to adjust to small town girl in the NC and city girl in NYC. I think these life​styles also helped to shape and prepare me for the many roles I have had.

In closing, I have had leadership roles at the city, county, state, national and international levels and I loved each experience.​


Inspired by the 19th Amendment Centennial, do you have a story about voting you could share?

I have many stories but this one is my favorite. In 1991, I took my 8-year-old daughter with me to the voting polls as I had been doing every year since she was born. I would talk with her about the candidates that I was voting for and answer any of her questions. I was instilling in my daughter the role of being a civic servant. 

This particular April election was important toboth of us as my name was on the ballot for Fitchburg Mayor. We entered the ballot box, closed the curtain and she read the names of the various candidates for office. ​Proudly, she pulled the lever for me, her mother, as her choice for Mayor of Fitchburg. She returned to her classroom and school and proudly told others, including her teacher,​ that she had voted for her mother as Mayor.

​Later I was talking with her teacher who informed me that my daughter had not been truthful and she was concerned as my daughter indicated that she voted and for her mother. I chuckled as I shared that my daughter did vote for me. That my daughter always did the voting as soon as she was able to read names on the ballot or just pull the lever to the right. 

​By taking her to the polls and into the voting booth each time I voted, I was teaching her to go to the polls​​ and vote in every election. She was taught to do the research and know your candidate before you cast that vote! I am so proud that she still votes today even though she has moved across the country!​ 

Thank you to Dawn Crim and the Women Who Inspire committee for providing this opportunity for WI residents to meet some of the Wisconsin women.

Learn more about these issues at: http://www.naacpofdaneco.org/​