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UC Law Alum Tracy Cook Advocates for Children at ProKids

Tracy Cook ’90 was born and bred in Cincinnati, growing up locally before attending UC as an undergraduate and then the College of Law. After earning a degree in political science with a minor in fine art in 1987, Cook began at the College of Law that fall.

“I knew since the sixth grade that I wanted to study the law,” she said. “I was raised to be concerned about justice and was fascinated by ground breaking Supreme Court decisions.” While at the College of Law, some of Cook’s favorite courses included Civil Procedure – “taught by the famous Professor Aplin,” she said – Constitutional Law, Law & Psychiatry and each of the Evidence classes in which she was enrolled. During her time as a law student, Cook was also involved with the Upward Bound program as a tutor/counselor, and was a research assistant for Dean Tom Gerety.

In 1992, Cook became a volunteer “CASA” (Court Appointed Special Advocate) locally at ProKids, before “jumping at” the opportunity to join the organization as a staff attorney the following year. ProKids is an organization that trains volunteers to become CASAs. Founded in the early 80’s by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, the Cincinnati Bar Association, and the Junion League of Cincinnati, ProKids is  one of more than 900 CASA volunteer programs nationwide.  

It was with ProKids that Cook was able to follow her interests in litigating and working with children, becoming ProKids’ Litigation Director in 1996 and ultimately the Executive Director in 1998. Cook – who is married and has two daughters – still holds this position today, which she has likened to a “smorgasbord.” “I get to be involved in a lot of things each day – from litigating to fundraising to strategic planning,” she said. “It is really interesting to go back and forth between small details that will make a big difference in a child’s life, and the big picture issues surrounding the foster care system or challenges related to growing a non-profit organization to serve more children.”

In addition to recruiting, training and supporting the CASA volunteers, ProKids has developed a number of important programs since Cook became Executive Director. The Building Blocks Program, the Steps to Peace Program and CASA University have all received recognition from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

It is safe to say that ProKids means a great deal to Cook, who said she shares the vision of a “safe, permanent, and nurturing home for every child,” with each of her co-workers, the board members, the 175 CASA volunteers and the many supporters of ProKids. “It is wonderful to be part of this community that deeply cares about children and understands that the work we do to stop abuse and neglect means a bright future for our children and our whole community.”

In addition to previously serving as a chair of the Juvenile Court Committee of the Cincinnati Bar Association and as a board member of the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, Cook is currently on the Advisory Committee for the Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College Guardian ad Litem Curriculum and the National CASA Association Editorial Board.

In 2001, Cook was recognized by the ABA Young Lawyers’ Division for her contributions “advancing the welfare of our nation’s children.” She was also named a Leading Woman in Law in 2004, an Ohio Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2005, and was the recipient of the Nicholas Longworth III Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Law in 2006.

Although she admits having little free time, Cook enjoys spending it with her family.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13