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Celebrating Their Success: Tyrek Cooper ’21

social work graduate tyrek cooper next to a tree

The Class of 2021 graduates are all about the business of breaking barriers, challenging norms, and disrupting old ways of doing things. We salute their success and are proud to share a few of their stories.

Tyrek Cooper ’21 is all about putting in work—in class, in the community, and in his calling: social work. In four short years, he’s worked numerous jobs on campus, held leadership positions, and helped others—just as he was helped before arriving at Georgian Court University.

Tyrek dealt with dyslexia as a youngster. He fought his way from remedial English classes to honors courses at Mainland High School in South Jersey, and attended GCU because of Josephine Carney ’07, a GCU alumna who believed him.

Tyrek Cooper '21

Mrs. Carney encouraged him to push past his learning disability, racism, and his home circumstances. She gave Tyrek extra books and assignments to challenge him. Her husband supported Tyrek as well and gave him odd jobs to help earn money for college. Together, the couple helped him apply to college, celebrated his acceptance, and drove him to campus for the first day of his GCU journey.

Social Work as “Mercy Work”

Georgian Court’s social work faculty and student affairs staff point to Tyrek’s spirit of determination, perseverance, and unyielding work ethic as some of his defining qualities. Tyrek was a resident assistant for three years. He worked in university catering and the dining hall. He cofounded a men’s leadership program on campus and served as vice president for the Alliance of Educational Opportunity Fund Students of New Jersey. 

Also a TRIO scholar, Tyrek held down student worker assignments in the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Student Life. In 2020, he interned with New Jersey’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. He applied his compassion and social work insight by reviewing court proceedings and legislative policies affecting adoptions. For the 2020–2021 academic year, he was an Office of Campus Ministry intern with responsibility for GCU’s food pantry throughout the pandemic.

Next Up: Graduate School

Tyrek has been accepted into Rutgers University’s accelerated M.S.W. program. His goal? To break the chain of poverty and oppression for others. 

“Becoming a social worker will not be an easy road to follow; however, I will travel down this path laid out for me in order to continue my own success story, and to influence others to chase a dream of their own,” Tyrek says. 

Graduation will be especially poignant for him. His beloved mentor died suddenly in December 2020. Her husband passed a month later.

“I am fixated on not just getting my degree,” Tyrek adds, “but fulfilling the full potential that Mrs. Carney saw in me the day she invested in my future.”

Photos by Russ DeSantis.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.