HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (July 19, 2021) — When she is exhausted, when the pressures of juggling single parenting and law school and her part-time job and family issues weigh heavily on her, and when doubts about whether she can achieve her goals enter her mind, Alli Cooper thinks about her family. In particular, she thinks about her daughter, Chloe, who is 7.
When Alli was that age, she sat in school, burdened by questions: Will the lights be on when I get home? Will the water be on? Will we have heat this winter? Will we have food?
“Never in life do I want Chloe to have to even think about things like that,” Alli, 25, says.
Today Alli can envision a career that will lead to long-term self-sufficiency. Thanks to the help she receives from Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, a partner agency of United Way of Greater Cincinnati, reaching that goal is possible.
Alli was born in Fort Thomas, the oldest of five children. She was 17 and living with her parents and siblings when Chloe was born. Alli’s mother worked outside the home, but the family of eight relied mostly on her father’s income. As kidney failure caused his health to deteriorate, the family’s financial situation suffered. Meanwhile, in addition to going to school and caring for her own baby, Alli handled the cooking and cleaning and laundry for the family. She ensured her siblings did their homework and she put them to bed at night.
In 2014, Alli enrolled at Northern Kentucky University. “I was struggling because school was a lot, my home life was a lot, being a young mom was a lot.” Academically, though, she never faltered. “I would rather not get a minute of sleep than allow my grades to slip,” she says. Many nights, she slept only three hours.
An NKU official told her about the Lincoln-Grant Scholar House, which is operated by the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission and supported by United Way. In 2017 Alli moved into the Scholar House, which provides affordable housing for single parents who are full-time college students. Residents can receive academic support as well as help in applying for public benefits and securing affordable child care. For Alli, another great benefit is having a quiet place to study.
At the Scholar House, Alli and Chloe have received cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. A local church donated school supplies. NKCAC helped Alli apply to a Kentucky relief fund for assistance with utility bills. Alli also has taken advantage of United Way’s Free Tax Prep service.
Sometimes, Alli finds notes in her mailbox or stuck to her door. Written by Scholar House staff and volunteers, the notes say things like: “We’re so proud of you” and “You’re doing such a good job.”
Indeed, she is. After graduating from NKU in 2018 with a political science degree, Alli enrolled in NKU’s Chase College of Law. She expects to receive her law degree in spring 2022.
Life is still not easy for Alli. The death of her father and, more recently, her grandmother, hit her hard. What’s more, the challenges of school and single parenting remain. Now, though, Alli can rely on support from Scholar House staff, Scholar House residents who share similar struggles and from organizations such as NKCAC and United Way.
“There are people out there who don’t know us personally but recognize what we’re doing, recognize our struggle, and root for us to succeed,” Alli says. “That is really comforting.
“I hope to one day be in a position to help others the way I have been helped.”
UPDATE: On May 6, 2022, Alli graduated magna cum laude and in the top 10 of her law school class.
"I've looked forward to this day for more than the four years I've been in law school," she said at a reception for families and friends before commencement. "I'm happy. I'm excited. But I'm nervous. Because now it's not just my grades anymore. It's people's lives in my hand. But I'm so excited. I've worked so hard."
Her daughter, Chloe, also was excited. "I feel happy that my mom's graduating, and I'm happy for her, because she's come a long way."
Alli said she appreciates the support that all the residents of Lincoln-Grant Scholar House receive.
"We're single parents or guardians, and we're trying to do good for our kids and ourselves. Just knowing there are people out there who recognize that, and care, and want to help, and are ready to help whenever they can, that means a lot."
United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.