Jeri was featured in the Summer 2020 Newsletter of the Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists! See the article below:
Meet an AVRT Member…Jeri Cooper
By Susan M. Dalton, CVRT
While thinking about AVRT members who have done outstanding work in our field but, additionally, have gone above and beyond to make an impact on others, one of the first persons to come to mind is Jeri Cooper. A beautiful lady who radiates warmth and charm, Jeri has dedicated herself to the profession, the clients that she serves, and the overall good of her community. Read on to meet Jeri Cooper as she shares her story.
Jeri currently works as a DeafBlind specialist through the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In her job she travels throughout the state of Oklahoma teaching persons who are DeafBlind how to live independently. Jeri describes her duties as follows: “…to support the consumer as well as their families and our staff by providing resources, advocacy, counseling and guidance, and educate the public about DeafBlind. I also administer the FCC I Can Connect program which provides equipment and training to utilize distance communication for eligible DeafBlind Oklahomans.”
How did Jeri get to where she is today?
When she was young, she always wanted to help others in some way, possibly as a teacher or in other areas. Being a person who was legally blind and hard of hearing she felt she could help others who shared these conditions. A big part of her success comes from the support of her mother, her personal faith and determination. Jeri shares, “My Mama had faith in God and she empowered me to be all I could be, never giving up. Doctors wanted to put me in an institution when I was born because they said I was mongoloid. Mama said, ‘No’ and I still tear up when I think where I would have been if it hadn’t been for Mama. I give her and God thumbs up every time I am able to empower another person in any way. I want to give back to society because I was given so much and was blessed to have the opportunity to live life to the fullest!”
So, Jeri went off to college and earned her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University and her Masters at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. She was then certified in DeafBlind Rehabilitation through a program at Northern Illinois University. Jeri Cooper trivia:
During her career, she had a fun encounter with some well-known celebrities. The Oak Ridge Boys contacted her to Braille a book for them to present to the Blind Boys of Alabama. She jumped right in to take on this task and in exchange, got to see their show and go back stage to meet and HUG each one!! What a great compensation for services rendered!
In her leisure time, Jeri’s “absolute most-loved TV show” is The Andy Griffith Show, where she proudly states, “I know every line by heart of every episode!”
Some other favorites… Book: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.Movies: Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, War Room and Overcomer.If she could have dinner with a famous person, Jeri says, “Oh goodness! Toss-up between Dennis Higgins who is the radio announcer for the Tulsa Drillers AA baseball team, or Joyce Meyer, Bible Teacher. We would go to either First Watch which is my favorite breakfast place, or Goldie’s which is my favorite hamburger place or Rincon Mexican. All good!” Sounds yummy!
What others are saying about Jeri:Elyse Heinrich met Jeri for the first time recently at the AVRT conference in Jacksonville, Florida. She says, “Jeri is such a sweet lady who I was able to say hello to and chat with during a break between workshops. I noticed Jeri using ASL and I was able to communicate directly with her for our interaction, which really made it personal. Turns out, we connected (again) through a mutual contact in the field of DeafBlind. Jeri’s passion and energy for learning, connecting and advocating shone through in her personality the moment we spoke. I am glad to have had the chance to meet her and can’t wait to talk again in person.” AVRT President, Jennifer Ottowitz, one of Jeri’s biggest fans, comments, “I remember Jeri giving a presentation at an AVRT conference on working with people who are deaf-blind. The information she shared was so helpful. She is a true wealth of knowledge. Her openness about her own personal experiences and ‘tell it like it is’ style added greatly to my understanding of the challenges faced by our clients and co-workers who may have a dual sensory loss as well as what we can do to enhance our work with them. I always enjoy connecting with her at conferences. She has a fabulous sense of humor and loves the opportunity to learn new things. She lives by example and is a true role model.”
Since she is now totally blind and severely hard of hearing, she feels that she can closely relate both professionally and personally to others who are DeafBlind. “That’s where my passion is!”
Jeri has great plans for the future, and the personal accomplishment of which she is most proud will be taking place after December when she retires. She’ll be continuing on in the field of DeafBlindness through a non-profit faith-based program she is starting called Jeri’s House. Jeri says that the goal for the residential training facility is, “to empower DeafBlind to be all they want to be.” You can learn more about this at her website: http://www.jerishouse.org
Yes, this IS quite an amazing accomplishment. Looking forward to hearing more about this from Jeri in the future as well.
Jeri’s advice to others:When asked what she would like to share with others in our profession, especially those who are new to the field, Jeri imparts the following words of wisdom: “Be flexible and remember every single consumer is different. Meet them where they are and help empower them to reach their goals, not yours. Sometimes I think we get too focused on what we would like to see them accomplish. It’s not about us, but rather, about them. And, above all, keep the faith!”Amen!
Check out the entire newsletter here: http://www.avrt-blog.com/newsletter/