Sandra Cooper knows firsthand that a person’s starting point in life is not as important as where hard work and determination takes them. She traveled from Indiana to Baltimore at the age of 15 years old, driven to reshape her life on her own terms.
Brittney Leighton, Cooper’s daughter who resides in the Baltimore area, reflected on her mother’s riveting journey.
“She wanted to get away from Muncie [Indiana] at the time and start a new life somewhere else,” Leighton said. “It’s always just been her with no family here at all.”
Cooper’s daughter added that challenges with her mother’s father led Cooper to set her sights on other horizons in another place. Living with a male friend in Baltimore was Cooper’s next stop before meeting Leighton’s father.
“She had me at the age of 20 and she had my brother [Van Carroll Jr.] three years after me,” Leighton explained. “She married in her late 40’s. She’s been a single mother.”
Cooper once lived in Section Eight housing while needing additional government assistance, including food stamps, while rearing two children in Howard County. But Leighton said that her mother has always been a self-employed individual, with the exception of working for CarMax, selling cars. Cooper earned a GED from the Howard Community College in Maryland, located in Howard County while working at McDonald’s.
“Growing up, my mom always made sure that we had clothes and food to eat. She always made sure that we were well taken care of,” Leighton said, also explaining that her mother was consistently involved in her children’s education.
Cooper armed herself with the desire to strive to achieve bigger goals. She began furthering her career in the real estate field as a real estate agent while working in car sales.
Hard work paid off for Cooper. She now manages and owns properties. Additionally, Cooper is the CEO and founder of Bright Horizons Behavioral Health, located in Baltimore County. The business opened in 2016. Byron Cooper, Sandra Cooper’s husband, is the COO. Leighton works as the office manager. She has been employed in the woman-owned business for approximately seven years.
“We service adults and adolescents for substance abuse, mental health and behavioral services,” Leighton said, explaining the purpose of Bright Horizons Behavioral Health. “We also have a federal contract that we’ve had for about six years now, and we service their clients that are on probation or awaiting trial for substance abuse, mental health and any psychiatric needs.”
She also mentioned that the business offers intensive outpatient treatment, general outpatient treatment and various therapies. Approximately 300 clients are currently served through the business.
Leighton also shared that the Coopers are based in Myrtle Beach. Byron and Sandra wed approximately six years ago.
“Now, my mom’s trying to open a restaurant in Myrtle Beach,” Leighton said. “She never stops. She has always been a go-getter who makes a way.”
Sandra’s sense of ambition led her daughter to understand the importance of taking care of herself. But Leighton also explained that her brother became entangled in legal trouble that led to his incarceration.
“So that kind of made our mom want to open this behavioral health clinic as well to help people with substance abuse and mental health needs,” Leighton said.
She added that her stepfather has been clean from substances for over 30 years. Leighton said that the Coopers both created the substance abuse and mental health business idea.
“My mom’s amazing and her husband is the perfect balance for her. He’s probably the best partner that she’s had since I’ve been able to remember,” Leighton added.
Expanding the business is on the Cooper’s horizon. Leighton said that her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit inspires her.
“It just shows me that I can do anything that I put my mind to as well,” Leighton said. “First and foremost, my mother’s just shown me to never give up on anything.”
Through a growing women’s group called Trustworthy Tuesdays, Sandra leads a Zoom call meeting each Tuesday at 7 p.m. for others, too. Women from all over the world discuss anything that they would like to chat about while sisterhood and networking is promoted.
“My mother usually starts it out each week with a scripture that she wants to talk about. They kind of piggyback off that and a title that she creates every week,” Leighton said.
Cooper is now a grandmother who enjoys the fruits of investing in a generational legacy.
“My mother inspires me to be a better person and do better things in my life,” Leighton said. “ She’s always there, so I would be lost if I didn’t have her.”