Tuesday was the first day for Andrea Zopp as the new president and chief executive officer for the Chicago Urban League and already she is focused on the organization’s future.
Tuesday was the first day for Andrea Zopp as the new president and chief executive officer for the Chicago Urban League and already she is focused on the organization’s future. For now Zopp said things would remain the same as she evaluates what changes are needed to strengthen the organization’s foothold within the Black community. “We will continue to do what we have been doing,” she told the Defender. One program Zopp plans to maintain is nextOne, which is a nine-month program for minority entrepreneurs. “Clearly the nextOne program has been a huge success for us so we want to build off that success and expand our services,” Zopp said. “The mission of the Chicago Urban League will remain the same. That mission includes education, jobs and housing.” The new CEO said the organization’s 2008 lawsuit against the State Board of Education for funding disparities between white and minority public school districts would proceed. But change at the local branch of one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations is not out of the question. “Will things look the same six months from now? I don’t know. But I do know I will work hard to create a vibrant and stable community for African Americans,” said Zopp, only the second female to lead the Chicago arm of the century-old national organization. The city’s chapter has been around for 94 years. Among the challenges the Urban League and other non-profit organizations are faced with each year is fundraising. “Fundraising is all about building relationships. The stronger the relationship, the stronger chance an organization has to secure funding,” she explained. “And throughout my career working in corporate America I have had to develop good relationships with others.” Her career includes working at Sears Holding Corp., Sara Lee Corp., Chicago law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, and most recently Exelon Corp. She was also the first Black to serve as first assistant in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Jim Reynolds, board chairman for the Chicago Urban League and co-founder and chairman of Loop Capital Markets LLC, a Black-owned investment management firm in hered, called Zopp the kind of “21st century leader the Chicago Urban League needs.” Zopp follows Cheryle Robinson Jackson, the agency’s first female president and CEO, who never returned after taking leave to run unsuccessfully for the state’s U.S. Senate seat. “I accept the challenge as the eighth Chicago Urban League president,” Zopp said at Friday’s news conference where she also acknowledged the presence of past leaders, including James Compton. Prior to Zopp’s appointment Herman Brewer had served as the interim president and CEO. He was not selected for the permanent position despite applying. Brewer said he is comfortable returning to his previous position as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Married with three children Zopp said she had to overcome a lot of racial barriers with wedding her husband who is white. “Life has not been easy for me,” she said. The Harvard law school graduate also holds degrees in history and science. Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender (Defender/Rhonda Gillespie)