Alumna’s Road Trip Reveals Roots of Poverty
“Do you know where you are?” a puzzled passerby asks in East St. Louis. Jennifer Cooper ’95 assures she does.
After about 1,200 miles, she’s used to looking a little out
of place while walking inner city blocks or shuffling along the shoulder of a
country road. Cooper hopes to increase awareness of poverty and homelessness
over the course of her 3,000-mile journey from Washington,
D.C., to San
Cooper finished up the most recent leg — a month-long,
550-mile excursion from Chicago to Kansas City — in July.
The longtime journalist maintains a blog and plans to write a book about her travels.
Trekking the cityscapes and country sides with backpack in
tow makes you more accessible and strangers more apt to open up, she said.
“It’s the best way to get out and meet people and talk to
them,” said Cooper, an English writing arts and anthropology double major at Oswego. She hopes her
unusual journey and stories she encounters shed light on a growing problem.
“Homelessness has always really bothered me,” Cooper said.
“People should not be abandoned.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our fellow man,”
Since the first steps in July 2009, the sojourn has evolved
into a broader exploration of poverty in America.
Cooper clarifies she has not hoofed every foot of the
journey, opting for public transportation or a friendly lift only when necessary. But, the main portion has been pedestrian – the first
part of Cooper’s walk ended when she suffered a stress fracture in her foot.
Cooper hopes to continue the walk from Kansas
City to Denver
this fall and conclude the effort in 2011.
“I hope that this inspires some people to make some positive
changes in their own community,” she said. “What you do for the people closest
to you – your family, your friends, your neighbors – that has a big impact on
your quality of life.”
— Shane M. Liebler
Jennifer Cooper ’95 takes the first steps of her 3,000 mile cross-country journey in July 2009. Cooper, who is raising awareness of homelessness and poverty and writing a book, hopes to complete her multi-phase journey next year. (Photo by Lindsay Cooper)
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