Monday, October 5, 2020 | 11:28 AM

When Loran Cooley met the other individuals chosen for the first WPIAL Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, he noticed a long list of doctorates.

“I’m probably the least qualified,” he said, laughing.

Not hardly.

As an African American and former head football coach at Baldwin, Cooley understands the racial landscape of the WPIAL better than most. Add his coaching experience to his full-time job as a recruiter in the Diversity and Inclusion Office for the Pennsylvania State Police, and it’s no wonder the WPIAL chose him as an inaugural member of the council.

Now an assistant football coach at Westminster College, Cooley and nine other individuals will amplify the voices of underrepresented minority communities across Western Pennsylvania for WPIAL administrators. The 10-person list includes a number of former WPIAL athletes whose professional careers took them on widely different paths.

For example, Karen Hall is an ESPN color analyst for women’s college basketball, leadership educator and motivational speaker whose 1983 Mt. Alvernia basketball team is inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. Tamara Collier is the Community Outreach Specialist, Reentry Coordinator and Diversity Coordinator for the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Western Pennsylvania. Phillip Woods is the high school principal at Woodland Hills and CEO of P.W. Diversity and Equity Resources.

“Everyone brings something significant to the panel,” Cooley said.

The WPIAL has heard criticism that its board doesn’t accurately reflect the racial diversity of its member schools. However, the WPIAL has little control over the racial makeup of its board because most members are elected by schools or appointed to represent specific constituencies such as game officials or superintendents.

This diversity council will offer guidance to the board and potentially take part in WPIAL hearings. The council was recommended by WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman and approved by the WPIAL board in August.

Council members serve two-year terms.

“What Amy and (WPIAL assistant to the executive director) Mr. (Vince) Sortino are doing is tremendous, bringing in this committee of very knowledgeable people,” Cooley said. “They can kind of consult with us and listen to our opinions about how we can make things better for student-athletes of the WPIAL — black, white, it’s indifferent. It’s all about the student-athlete.”

Also on the council are:

• Michael Breaston, a North Braddock councilman who umpires baseball and serves as a board member for the Steven Breaston Foundation.

• Jay Dworin, a compliance branch chief for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. He’s also borough council president in Churchill and a soccer coach.

• David Hunter, a Donora native who built a successful career in finance and now serves as president of the Mon Valley NAACP. In 2010, Hunter received an award from Gen. Colin Powell and the National Diversity Council.

• Donald Sheffield, who worked in higher education for several decades, including 26 years at Penn State, where he developed programs to improve multicultural education of students.

• Brittany Taylor, a former three-sport athlete at Canon-McMillan who works as a guidance counselor at her alma mater. She’s the school’s girls basketball coach, an assistant track coach and a former official for WPIAL games. Taylor also assists at-risk youth as a board member at LeMoyne Community Center in Washington County.

• Dr. Felicia Young, a medical doctor who has worked extensively in underserved areas of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. She’s also an NCAA- and PIAA-certified basketball official along with medical director for the Three Rivers Youth Drug and Alcohol program in Pittsburgh.

The council met twice last month to lay down a foundation for its future work.

Among the agenda items for its late-September meeting was the creation of a form to let schools formally report instances of discrimination or racial insensitivity rather than merely sending an email to WPIAL administrators.

“For this committee, the question is: ‘How can we make a better environment for the student-athlete?’” said Cooley, who also coached at Clairton, Gateway and Plum, and played college football at Duquesne. “The WPIAL is very diverse. There are a lot of teams that have a lot of minorities. There are teams that don’t have minorities. This is making sure everybody kind of gets their fair shake.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Tags: Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Woodland Hills

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