Cooper Hawk Cooperative Learning Center, located in Richmond, Virginia, offers online courses for adults ages 14 and up that require no financial support from the company.
Coop students can earn as much as $200 each month on their own.
They can also earn $500 on a one-year contract with the company, and up to $1,000 annually if they want to buy in-person classes.
“We’re able to provide free learning to people in need, but also give them the tools to build the skills they need to get ahead,” said Kagan Cooper, a senior associate director with the nonprofit Cooper Hawks, which operates the center.
Cooper said the cooperative has a goal to “educate and empower every person who walks through our doors.”
A cooperative is defined as an educational organization that provides a public service by providing a learning environment that is affordable and accessible to all.
“I feel like I’m just learning how to earn money, but the reality is that I’m not earning anything,” Cooper said.
He’s a college graduate and hopes to earn his bachelor’s degree in social work.
Cooper’s first lesson was a video titled “The Cooper Hawk’s Cooperative Learning Process.”
It’s an introductory class that introduces students to Cooper’s business model.
The video teaches students how to create a social enterprise and how to build a network of cooperative partners.
“The goal is to have as many cooperatives as possible working together in a cooperative community,” Cooper told CNN affiliate WCVB.
The company will also help students acquire skills that will enable them to get work in the fields of education, healthcare, and finance.
Cooper, who is now a senior at the University of Virginia, said he’s never been happier.
“It’s been the most rewarding and fun thing in my life,” Cooper, 18, said.
Cooper says he’s glad Cooper’s learning center is helping people in crisis.
He said his family and he are now on the road to becoming college graduates.
“My plan is to be a doctor in three years,” Cooper added.
“To be able to do that is going to be one of the biggest blessings in the world.
I can’t wait to be able have a job when I’m older.”
The cooperative began in 2003 and serves students in more than 40 countries.
In addition to Cooper, the Cooper Hawks also offer classes in English, business, law, and music.
Cooper is an active member of the cooperative and the co-founder of a local group called the Richmond Community Development Corp. He hopes to open a cooperative-owned school in the area in the coming years.
“You have to make a commitment to yourself to live the life that you want to live,” Cooper explained.
“If you want people to come to your school, you have to give them a chance.”