Newark Principal Impacts His Students' Lives Every Day

As part of Making a Difference Week, Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Newark NJ's West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook, who discusses how he is positively impacting the lives of his students in Newark every day and his recent appearance on the Ellen Show.

5/2/19 #2213






"If I wasn't at the Lights On program... Yeah, I was boxed in... Yeah. I probably would have... me and my boy. I don't know. I'd be in the street. Jeopardizing my life. Being here instead of being out there somebody drive by shooting, you'll be hit from somebody else. You standing there, like, it's crazy. Programs like this keep me alive. I wanted to create a space where that wouldn't be an issue. We have music. We have video games. We have basketball. We have badminton. We have countless board games. A whole bunch of stuff for the kids to do. But namely, just be safe, and have a nice hot meal for them too, during these hot Summer nights. Absolutely amazing. We are joined by our friend Akbar Cook, Principal, West Side High School in beautiful Brick City, Newark, New Jersey. How you doing? How you doing Steve? We just found out that we went to the same high school? Yes sir. Essex Catholic. Essex Catholic? Yeah, same time. Yes sir. We were there at the same time? No! [laughter] Stop joking. See, why you gotta be like that? [laughter] Hey. Hey. [laughter] By the way, I also want to make it clear that you succeeded an extraordinary guy who was a mentor of mine, Mr. Potts? Yes. Who... was Nathaniel Potts? Yes. His son, Don, was a close friend of mine in high school. And so when I was looking at what you were doing, I thought, "What a legacy. What an impact." And you grew up in the West Ward? Yes sir. You have been recognized for this Lights On program. Ellen made a big deal about you on the show, right? She was focusing on one million acts of good. $50,000 check from the show, right? Yes. The first time. The first t...? Okay. You got national attention, because what are you doing? Yes sir. So the big thing was the laundromat was the first thing, and we... Describe that. So we were having kids staying home. My attendance was very low. And after we started knocking on doors and doing some unpacking, we found out the kids were staying home because they didn't have clean clothes. So what better way for me to remove that barrier than to put a laundromat in the school? I didn't know there was gonna be so much politics in getting it done, but once we finally got it done, we've been doing so many loads of clothes now, and my attendance has went up ten percent. So we've removed that barrier now and we're moving in the right direction. Principal..."