Akbar Cook

About The Speaker

Akbar H. Cook Sr. was born and raised in Newark’s West Ward. He attended St. Catherine’s College in Kentucky on two basketball scholarships before graduating with a BA in Education from Florida Atlantic University. He went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from St. Peter’s University. Mr. Cook’s love for children and basketball led him to Newark Vocational School in 2008, where he became head coach of the boys’ basketball team and later Vice Principal. In 2016, Mr. Cook started the Lights On Program at West Side High School to ensure that our students and other young adults in the community are safe during peak crime hours. He was then named the Principal of West Side High School, where he started a laundromat initiative called “Washing Bullying Away” to help ameliorate bullying concerns for students who were displaced and had no funds or access to washing machines. The success of the laundromat reached the producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show who invited Principal Cook as a guest of the show on three separate occasions where he secured over $110,000 from DeGeneres and a year’s supply of food from General Mills for the food pantry. His Lights On segment on CBS Evening News garnered the attention of Oprah Winfrey who visited the school and donated $500,000. He continues to create new initiatives such as the development of the Urban Farm on campus, a built-in soccer pitch, and a brand-new kitchen for Home Economics. Principal Cook is also the CEO of Cook Educational Solutions, where he mentors school leaders. His wife Sheridan and he were recently contestants on Season 33 of The Amazing Race. He is an Amazon Bestselling Author with his first book titled “Focus on the Love!” and dropped a compilation album of the same title that features his son and students from West Side High School.