Acooa Ellis is the Director of Social Justice Advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. In this role, Ellis directs the organization’s policy and community engagement work, leading a network of thousands of advocates, volunteers, and community leaders.
Acooa’s passion for social justice has driven her work in nonprofit and human services organizations, local governments, and business. Ms. Ellis played an integral role in the reorganization of Saint Paul’s Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, the city’s most significant commitment to parity in several decades. She also helped create the foundation for what is now known as the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood, an initiative committed to improved academic and life outcomes for children and families in the heart of one of Minnesota’s most diverse communities.
Since joining Catholic Charities in late 2015, Acooa has worked to advance critical social justice initiatives, including the pursuit of state resources to end or prevent homelessness for thousands of Minnesotans. Prior to her current post, Ellis managed government relations for the southern region of the country at Target Corporation, where she also co-chaired the company’s African American Business Council. She has held community engagement, planning, and public policy roles at Hennepin County and the City of Saint Paul.
In addition to her professional resume, Ellis’s experience includes extensive volunteerism and civic engagement. A proud longtime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, a public service organization, Acooa served on the advisory board of the Multicultural Endowment Fund of the Saint Paul Foundation from 2007-2010, was a member of the board of directors and chair of the policy advisory committee for the Citizens League, and was recently appointed Co-Chair of the Met Council Equity Advisory Committee.
Ellis received bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of Iowa and earned her master’s degree in public policy, with a concentration in community economic development, from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Policy.