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Change Agent: Cheryl Magee

Stories | 04.24.19

Youth and adults participate in a Hope Center program to help with disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina.

Cheryl Magee, M.A. ’18, has devoted her career to serving her community’s diverse and ever-changing needs. A student in the Online Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and a graduate of the online Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management program, Magee runs a nonprofit that provides critical social services to the greater New Orleans area.

Throughout her career, she has been dedicated to “moving people and places out of poverty.

Magee is the founder and executive director of Hope Center in Gretna, Louisiana. She started the organization out of her local church, and since opening in 2001, it has helped more than 9,000 people, including youth, veterans, and those who are homeless or unemployed.

One thing that makes Hope Center unique is its adaptive approach to serving the community, Magee said.

“We only run about two programs at one particular time,” she said. “What we have been successful in doing is identifying the service gaps and the needs in the community.”

For example, after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, many after-school services and summer camps shut down, and services were limited. So the Hope Center staff stepped in and worked with the Louisiana Department of Education to implement after-school and summer programs.

The goal of the programs “was not only to keep our kids active and to keep them on a path to academic excellence but also to give parents time to recover and rebuild.

Hope Center kept the programs in place until they were no longer needed. “We go where the need is,” Magee said. “Once the field has been inundated—in a good way—with these services, we move on to the next gap. The next need.

She later saw a need to help homeless veterans and families. The Hope Center already had a program and system in place to help homeless veterans find housing, but Magee started to see more families becoming homeless in the area and knew there were more factors and larger systemic issues in place.

“We know that it is due to the economics of the area,” Magee said. “Our housing cost is astronomical. Families are spending 50 percent or more of their disposable income on housing, which is not going to be sustainable.”

To help combat this, Hope Center is doing advocacy work for affordable housing and has been working to promote voter education and turnout.

Magee decided to go back to school to earn a master’s degree because she wanted to teach and consult other nonprofit leaders. She then decided to earn a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology to become a more versatile and well-rounded leader.

Magee said she chose to study at Adler University “because of the social justice focus,” explaining that no matter the industry or field, “I believe that everything we do impacts the lives of others. When I think about social justice, it’s not only about making things right for people, it’s about making sure things stay right for people in a changing environment.”

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