Kat Cooper is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Nooga Diversity Center. She lives with her wife, Heather Cooper, and is a mother of their newborn twins, Emma and Eli.
Kat is a native Chattanoogan, purchased her first investment property in the city at 18 years of age, and has purchased a house on Missionary Ridge where she grew up as a child. Kat loves Chattanooga and has dedicated her entire professional career to protecting and serving the community in various and unique roles.
In 2015, she was nominated as one of Chattanooga’s 20 under 40 most influential people. In 2016, she was selected as a nominee for Best Chattanoogan. More specifically, in her early 20’s while working and attending college, Kat envisioned and recognized Chattanooga’s need for a safe space that catered to LGBTQI youth, individuals, their families, and allies. After living and working as a self-affirmed and openly gay woman in the demographically unique South, Kat has brought what she once wished for as an adolescent and young adult to fruition and co-founded the Nooga Diversity Center (NDC). She is dedicated and passionate about finding and developing ways to meet the various needs that are specific to the LGBTQI community.
Kat has vigilantly worked and publicly advocated for ways to help construct a community that best protects LGBTQI youth and citizens by foreseeing and initiating ways to mitigate, prepare, respond to, and recover from the complex and often tragic circumstances that too often victimize LGBTQI. Kat’s vision is that the Nooga Diversity Center will provide LGBTQI a safe haven, access to needed resources, and, ultimately, help end the statistically higher accounts of LGBTQI homelessness, depression, bullying, domestic and sexual assaults, and suicide.
Kat brings unparalleled experience to NDC with 17 years of experience working in the public sector. For 15 of those years, Kat has spent working in law enforcement and consequently she has acquired specialized experience in public safety, criminal investigations, instructing, public speaking, and serving in leadership roles in the community. Specifically, Kat served as an Animal Control Investigator, field/shelter supervisor, and field training officer at the Hamilton Co. Humane Educational Society (2000-04). During that time, she attended and completed the National Animal Control Academy. For the past 13 years, Kat has served as a Police Officer and currently is the most senior Detective at the Collegedale Police Department. Kat is also a certified School Resource Officer, and has received certified training at the National Children’s Advocacy Center for forensic interviewing of children. In the past, Kat has also worked as a certified guard and has experience in individual, business, and warehouse security. In 2008, she obtained her personal fitness instructor certificate, and has experience working as a certified personal trainer. Currently, she assists with basic wellness training for law enforcement. Moreover, Kat has experience in the mental health field and working as a Residential Mental Health Tech. Currently, Kat serves on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and provides assistance with complex situations that often arise when law enforcement encounter citizens that are struggling with mental health problems.
Being that Kat has over a decade of specialized experience and training in public safety, investigations, family related crimes such as child abuse, sexual assaults, and elder abuse, she has experience working with and serves on various boards and committees such as: the Child Protective Investigative Team, Sexual Assault Response Team, and the CACHC Cultural Inclusion and Diversity Committee. Due to her successful championing for LGBTQI equality and inclusion, Kat serves as the Tennessee Equality Project Co-Chairman for the southeast Tennessee area. In addition, she is greatly involved with Chattanooga’s PFLAG Chapter. She also has served as the Vice President of Tennessee Valley Pride; consequently, she successfully worked to organize Chattanooga’s first PRIDE parade in over twenty years. All of the aforementioned has provided her with invaluable experience and a prodigious understanding of investigations, public safety and service, advocacy, and, most importantly, effective leadership.
Kat has systematically demonstrated a unique drive, passion, and eagerness to succeed in most all endeavors she has set out to accomplish. She genuinely seeks to help create a safer and more equitable community for Chattanooga and abroad. Citizens have described her as,
“ ...an inspirational and motivational person...a fierce force.”
In 2004, Kat graduated the Police Academy and was the recipient of the Legal Award demonstrating exemplary achievement in legal education. She hold an A.S. and B.S. in Psychology and Emergency Service Management, and she graduated twice Summa Cum Laude. Presently, she is working toward her M.S. in Criminal Justice at Bethel University. Kat has been inducted into the Police Hall of Fame on 4 separate occasions and elected 3 times Officer of the Quarter. She is a recipient of the Life Saving Award, Gold Star Employee Award, Merit Award, and the Eleanor Johnson Excellence Award for Outstanding Care and Service to Older Adults. In 2013, Kat was accepted into and graduated as the President of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations State Investigators Academy.
Kat has been successful in helping bring about a greater equality that has materialized into new legislation that positively impacts the lives of LGBTQI citizens. In 2013, Kat led the first municipality in the State of Tennessee to offer equal benefits to LGBTQI employees. In result, municipalities across the State of Tennessee, including Nashville and Knoxville, followed suit. She has continued utilizing her public platform as a public advocate and is a well-respected leader regarding movements supporting legislation and private sector nondiscrimination policies establishing equal benefits, protections, and statewide marriage equality for LGBTQI. She is routinely sought after by various schools, colleges, and professional groups to speak on topics pertaining to diversity, cultural competency, inclusion, and human rights issues. Kat has continually been recognized by local and national press and organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Tennessee Equality Project, Chattanooga Yes Campaign, Tennessee Valley Pride, PFLAG, The Tennessean, Out&About, Queer Nation, Rachel Maddow, The Huffington Post, and CNN. She has been successful in her advocacy due to creating solutions, tearing down communication barriers, and building strong relationships with citizens, the community, and agencies across the Southeast.
Recently, as part of her work with NDC, Kat organized a group for young adults and youth—the Student Coalition for Equality—which helps provide safe and LGBTQI affirming events and meetups such as holiday parties, dances, adventure tips, and support groups. The group umbrellas local colleges, high schools, GSAs, and student allies that want to participate or get involved. In addition, she has led, overseen, and successfully worked in organizing large-scale community events such as: Chattanooga’s first March for Equality, the Glo Run for Equality, Marriage Equality rallies, Anti-discrimination demonstrations, Chattanooga’s annual PRIDE festival, public office campaigns, and community events that provide kinship for LGBTQI and allies. She has earned a reputation of continually aiding families and young adults who have sought her out for help and guidance regarding bullying, domestic violence situations, and homelessness.
Most important, Kat’s personal journey while growing up and residing in Chattanooga as a self-affirmed gay woman is what helped her envision and recognize the community’s need for an organization like NDC. Kat’s extensive work within the community is what precipitated her initiative to co-found the Nooga Diversity Center. Due to her unique blend of qualifications and professional roles, Kat has unparalleled hands-on experience working within the community as a public advocate, peace officer, and a community leader. She has extensive experience working with individuals and families in crisis situations and coordinating with community agencies to effectively solve problems. Again, the aforementioned has provided her unique qualifications and experiences that have cultivated from working with various groups in the private and public sectors. Consequently, Kat has developed skills in grant writing, policy writing, procedural development, extensive report writing, fundraising, developing budgets, social media development, press releases, and public relations. Kat’s entire professional career has been centered on community welfare, social justice, and safety. Kat’s professional experiences in policing, community outreach programs, community leadership, training, and formal education have matchlessly molded her to serve the community in a compassionate, progressive, and professional manner.
Kat feels that human equality is the most basic of concepts when seeking to build safe, healthy, and effective environments for youth and citizens. Kat has been nationally quoted and referenced for her speech when fighting for equality and equal benefits:
“The equal recognition of all citizens, employees, and families is a matter of equality; it is a matter of a family’s overall health, and ability to prosper and thrive from the same equal platform as others. It is a matter of standing up for the equal treatment of all people, respecting each and every one of our freedoms of speech and choice of religion, and, mostly, the right of everyone’s equal pursuit of happiness. It is not a moral or political debate, nor should any price tag ever be placed on the equitable treatment of human beings. There is a time law and policies must be blind to the color of one’s skin, religious or political affiliation, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. It is that time!”
Kat eagerly and confidently brings all of her unique qualifications, training, and experience to Chattanooga’s Nooga Diversity Center. She welcomes all who wish to get involved with NDC, and together help construct a safer and more inclusive community for our LGBTQ youth, citizens, their families, and all allies.