Nonprofit COOP Careers Accelerated Fighting Underemployment With New Partnerships, Programs and People Amid Great Reshuffle, Omicron in 2021

  • COOP Careers grew its flagship program by almost 50% in 2021 to over 2,700 total alumni nationwide.
  • By bringing its free, proven program to Chicago in 2021, COOP Careers deepened its impact on local low-income and first-generation graduates
  • Pareen Kohlhaas joined COOP Careers as its new COO in 2021 to establish the infrastructure needed to scale the organization, exceed COOP Careers’ growth goals

NEW YORK, Feb. 22, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- COOP Careers, a national nonprofit that helps recent low-income and first-generation college graduates overcome underemployment through digital skills and peer connections, progressed rapidly in its fight against underemployment in 2021, and is continuing that momentum in 2022. Alongside its new or expanded partnerships with Workday, Barclays, Google, and the Golden State Warriors this year, expansion to Chicago, and the addition of Pareen Kohlhaas as COO, COOP Careers graduated over 900 participants, bringing its total alumni to over 2,700 in 2021. As of January 1, 2022, 80% of alumni who have completed the program over a year ago are fully employed with a median salary of almost $55,000.

The Great Reshuffle and the latest variant of COVID-19 have put more pressure on companies' recruiters than ever before to hire talent, fast. Many recruiters have turned to leveraging their current networks and old ways of recruiting to meet demand. Unfortunately, recent college graduates without the recruiter "in" or network — often those from underrepresented communities — are left behind. With Gen Z entering the workforce as the most diverse population ever, it is vital they receive mentorship opportunities (which improve compensation, promotion rates and more) and accumulate social capital, both of which COOP Careers helps recent college graduates develop. The nonprofit and its alumni network close the gap between college graduation and the workforce for those who have found themselves underemployed post-graduation.

“Even before the pandemic, starting a meaningful career could be an immensely isolating experience, especially for first-gen college grads navigating new territory without built-in support. That sense of isolation has been so much more pronounced over the last two years,” said Kalani Leifer, founder and CEO of the nonprofit COOP Careers. “As the job market heats up, we think relationships and referrals will matter more than ever. That’s why we’re mobilizing underemployed grads — and proud to welcome our 3,000th COOP apprentice this week. In the year ahead, we’re excited to grow the community, extend our impact, and deepen collaborations with CUNY, Cal State, University of Illinois Chicago, and employers across the digital economy.”

Enrolling largest class of COOPers to date this February
Across their sites in New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Chicago, COOP is enrolling over 500 participants for its Spring cycle, the organization’s largest class since its founding in 2014. Over 85% of this group identifies as first-generation graduates and 85% received need-based financial aid in college.

Launch of Chicago program creates new opportunities for city’s underemployed recent graduates
By partnering with the University of Illinois Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology and IPG Mediabrands, COOP Careers brought its free, proven program to low-income and first-generation graduates in the Chicago area in 2021. COOP Careers saw 19 recent graduates through its program in the first semester, which finished in December, and 25% of them are now fully employed with a median salary of over $50,000.

The majority of graduates in the first cohort of participants reflected the city’s vibrant culture: The participants are 96% people of color and 92% first-generation graduates. These are all individuals starkly underrepresented in the marketing industry. Several other of COOP Careers’ long-time employer partners, including Publicis, GroupM, NBC Universal, Centro, and HK Strategies, provided volunteer support to the program.

New COO Pareen Kohlhaas will provide infrastructure to rapidly scale the nonprofits’ offering
Kohlhaas will work alongside Leifer to develop the internal infrastructure needed for the organization’s rapid growth, leveraging her experience as Chief Operating Officer for the SIFMA Foundation, a national financial education nonprofit. Prior to her career in the nonprofit sector, Kohlhaas worked in financial services at companies such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Kohlhaas’ passion and skills will fuel her work scaling COOP Careers and helping it exceed its vision for growth.

Within a year of completing the program, 80% of COOP Careers’ alumni become fully employed, on average, at companies like Microsoft, TikTok, Omnicom, and Publicis. Prior to the program, COOP Careers’ participants earn a median salary of $15,000 and work at a job that doesn’t require their college degree. One year post-program, COOP Careers alumni earn a median salary of $45,000, triple their pre-program salary.

To become a COOP Careers partner, sponsor or participant, or to find out more, visit

About COOP Careers
COOP Careers (pronounced ko-op) closes the social capital gap by recruiting and investing deeply in low-income and first-generation grads from CUNY, Cal State, and other urban public colleges. It connects recent graduates with employers looking for motivated, prepared, diverse candidates. More importantly, COOP Careers connects underrepresented college grads to each other across generations of program alumni. The nonprofit has over 2,000 alumni nationwide and is aiming to serve 10,000 by 2024. Its flagship program trains graduates in digital marketing, tech sales and data analytics. COOP Careers has been recognized by Google, LinkedIn, the Gates Foundation, and the Christensen Institute as a best-in-class program in its field. Founder Kalani Leifer was selected as one of 20 Obama Foundation Fellows, among 20,000 applicants. Learn more at

Highwire PR
COOP Careers