Motivational Speaker Arshay Cooper Visits Santaluces

Angelina Garcia and Nicole Kalpin

Arshay Cooper has been a chef to celebrities and athletes, he was a member of his high school’s first competitive rowing team. But this week, he used his role as a national motivational speaker to tell students about the importance of school.

Cooper began his speech by describing what his youth was like and giving some insight on what it was like to grow up in Chicago’s West Side. He was raised by a single mother who was caught in the grip of drug addiction, and his brothers were joining gangs, which he described as some of the reasons he failed his eighth grade year.

Cooper said he had a teacher who told him that he’d be dead before he turned 21. That was devastating for him, as he wasn’t even given a chance to succeed. His teacher wasn’t considering the fact that he had issues back at home.

While speaking to the Santaluces Chiefs, Cooper made his point through stories. He compared being alone and starving inside of a stocked grocery store to not taking advantage of academic opportunities provided by high school, such as joining clubs or sports teams. His speech was filled with energy and caused uproars of cheering to fill the stands of the gym.

“His lifestyle, what he went through, it really inspired me,” said Naomy Charles, a Senior. “[His speech] taught me how to look at things in a way I didn’t before.”

In 1997, Cooper joined the first all-black rowing team and gained the position of team captain. He graduated from high school, and afterwards gave two years of his life to the Americorps. Cooper enrolled at the Cooking Hospitality Institute of Chicago and became successful enough to work as a personal chef for companies such as Warner Brothers and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Cooper worked in the food industry for years, but put that to the side to begin working in the inner city. Now, as a national speaker, he has spoken to public schools, sports teams, community centers, and even former president Bill Clinton. He has even written his own book, a memoir named Suga Water.


Arshay Cooper is a good example of someone who was able to turn his life around, and in the end, reach success.

“You’re going to change the world, I know it,” said Cooper during his speech. “I believe in this school.”