His students were getting killed. So, Principal Cook took action and created a safe space for them.

When Akbar Cook arrived at West Side High School in Newark, he knew something needed to change.

Principal Cook saw that the high schoolers he served faced serious challenges in their community, including gang violence and drugs. After his first summer with the school—during which two students were killed—Cook decided to take action.

He approached the school's Alumni Association to brainstorm ideas for giving students more structured activities to keep them off the streets. With the help of volunteers and fundraisers, they launched the Lights On program in the summer of 2016.


Now in its fourth year, the program has proven to be a resounding success.

The high school offers students a safe space with fun activities every Friday night during the school year.

From 6:00pm to 11:00pm every Friday night, hundreds of students congregate within the walls of West Side High School to play basketball and video games, learn sewing and cosmetology, and enjoy a hot dinner.

The students who participate in the program are grateful for the alternative to the dangers of socializing in their neighborhood. Lights On also operates three days a week during the summer, and the program is made possible by donations from the community and help from alumni.

"Anything that keeps me off the streets I'll do," one student told ABC 7. "Selling drugs and stuff, I'm not into that."

"On the street it's dangerous, people get killed, you could be killed walking home, gunshots everywhere," another student said.

Some cite security as their main reason for coming to Lights On, while others simply enjoy having a place that they can hang out and have fun with other kids. "I just realized that if I come here I'll see friendly faces," said a student.

Giving students a safe place to gather and healthy alternatives for socializing appears to be reaping benefits for the whole community. Principal Cook says he hasn't lost a student to gun violence this school year.

Principal Cook also gained notoriety last summer for installing laundry facilities in the school for students to use.

If Akbar Cook looks familiar, you may have seen him on the news or on Ellen last year. Shortly after he was promoted from vice principal to principal, Cook transformed a school locker room into a free laundry room for students to use.

Cook had seen how students who were homeless or didn't have the means to clean their clothes were bullied by others students. The laundry room was his way of solving that problem. Cook told ABC 7 that school attendance has increased 10% since the laundry facilities went in.

Caring administrators like Akbar Cook make an enormous difference in students' lives—and in our society as a whole. Kudos to Principal Cook for seeing a problem, brainstorming solutions, and rallying the community around actions it can take. Keep up the awesome work, sir.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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