Meet Sue Schooner: A Visionary Leader Empowering Young Women

A group of people posing for a picture.
2015. Photos provided by Girls Group

Ann Arborite Sue Schooner stands out not just for her previous achievements in the automotive finance industry but for her transformative work as the executive director of Girls Group. The local nonprofit is dedicated to empowering young women from middle school through college to achieve emotional and economic self-sufficiency through education, mentorship, and community engagement.

Schooner’s journey from a high-powered corporate career to a community-centered leader began 21 years ago when she met the original participants of Girls Group. These young women, as Schooner vividly recalls, “quickly took over my heart, mind, and soul and became the most important part of my life.”

Their resilience and ambition inspired her to focus her energies on fostering an environment where young women could thrive against all odds.

Building a foundation for change

Creating Girls Group was no small feat. Schooner utilized her extensive background in finance to establish the organization as a stable, respected entity.

However, it was her decision to surround herself with skilled social workers and educators that truly shaped the organization’s ability to make a profound impact. She admits, “Having a CPA and an MBA certainly helped me to grow Girls Group into a well-respected, well-organized, financially stable organization.”

But it’s her growth in empathy and understanding—what she describes as developing a “social work heart”—that truly defines her leadership.

Celebrating milestones and looking ahead

Under Schooner’s leadership, Girls Group has celebrated significant milestones and in 2024 will reach 1,000 girls and young women served in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, with a 100% high school graduation rate among actively engaged participants. The organization proudly boasts 380 high school graduates and 105 college degrees earned, showcasing the profound impact of its support. Girls Group not only facilitates academic success but also fosters emotional and economic self-sufficiency, changing narratives on generational poverty through comprehensive programming that spans academic readiness, financial education and community service.

The future looks bright with Schooner at the helm. In celebrating the organization’s 20th anniversary, she spearheaded a “20-Year Campaign for Growth and Sustainability,” aiming to expand the organization’s reach and deepen its impact. Exciting new initiatives include doubling the weekly programs at local middle schools and launching innovative mentoring programs in Ypsilanti public schools.

RELATED:  Meet Food Gatherers Executive Director: Eileen Spring

Personal reflections and inspirations

When she steps away from her duties, Schooner immerses herself in the cultural and natural offerings of Ann Arbor.

“My favorite aspects of Ann Arbor are the people, the culture, and the nature,” she shares. From season tickets to UMS events to tranquil walks in Gallup Park, these moments of leisure are crucial for her rejuvenation and continuous commitment to her work.

Schooner also draws inspiration from local figures like Laurita Thomas and Janis Bobrin, who have supported her vision since her move to Ann Arbor. Their strength and community spirit have been a guiding force, reinforcing her resolve to empower the next generation of women.

“They are strong, resilient, engaged, community-oriented, well-networked and always committed to making a difference,” she appreciates.

The joy of witnessing growth

Perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of her work is seeing the tangible results of her efforts. Schooner shares, “It’s been so joyful to grow up alongside them, and watch them graduate from middle school, high school, and college.” Her pride is evident as she discusses young women who have not only met their academic goals but have also become thriving professionals and community leaders.

A lasting impact

Through Schooner’s visionary leadership, Girls Group has become a cornerstone of local community support, inspiring young women to dream big and achieve big. As Schooner reflects on the journey, her commitment is unwavering.

“I’m proud to watch Girls Group grow from strength to strength,” she says, looking forward to continuing her work, shaping lives, and making a meaningful difference.

In Sue Schooner, we see the powerful fusion of sharp business acumen and profound compassion, a combination that has transformed the lives of hundreds of young women. Her dedication and inspirational leadership have not only shaped her as a key community leader but also deeply woven her into the very fabric of our community.

You, too, can make a lasting impact on the lives of young women in our community by supporting Girls Group.

+ posts