Cook Beautifies Orange High School

The Landmark Education Self Expression and Leadership Program lead Todd Cook to do whatever he could to make a difference around the Orange High Schoool in North Carolina this summer. This eventually led to Cook organizing 40 people to work one Saturday to beautify the campus, as well as many more hours of personal effort. Cook’s contributions were written about by Steve Steiner at ACO News, a leading new outlet for Alamance, Caswell and Orange Counties.

Beautifying OHS a Shovelful at a Time

His eyes twinkle and a smile crosses Todd Cook’s face as he takes a break from his job at Bishop’s Custom Kitchens.

“I can’t say moving mulch motivates me,” he said.

But the truth is, such back-breaking work does motivate him; actually it’s the opportunity that moving mulch provides that inspires Cook.

He gets to work with high school students, school personnel and others in the community, all in an effort to upgrade and beautify the Orange High School campus.

But it’s the students who really matter to Cook.

“Many of them are there because they have to,” Cook said. “At first, they won’t even look you in the eye, let alone talk to you.”

It is his understanding that the majority of the students are there because they have to make up lost time from school, or because they have to work off some form of infraction. Regardless, the overwhelming majority of students don’t want to be there.But as he stood side by side with them several Saturdays ago, some began to warm up as he talked with them and took a genuine interest in them.

“Of course, there are others who never did talk to me,” he said.

That didn’t faze him. In fact, working with the students was a welcomed yet unexpected perk.

All Cook wanted to do was give back to the community, which is why he contacted Orange High School principal Roy Winslow.

“Is there something I can provide for the school?” Cook asked.

He learned that the principal was formulating plans on improving the school campus and invited Cook to visit. The tour pointed out a number of needs and Cook took to them with a relish.

Thus four months ago, “Come Together” began.

The first Saturday found several students and adults who worked to beautify the high school grounds. In addition to the students who had to be there, another five to 10 students were there because they choose to be. They were joined by school officials and other adults All told, Cook estimates about 40 people showed up that Saturday.

However, the second Saturday did not draw nearly as many people and Cook takes responsibility for the low turnout.

“I think it’s tough for people to say ‘I’m going to grab my rake and shovel and move mulch for several hours,’ especially the teens,” he said. “At age 17, the bed is more enticing.”

Cook said he hopes turnout this Saturday will be better.

As for the students who have to be there?

“I tell the students who show up, come back,” he said. “You don’t have to be forced to come back, choose to come back.”

Cook is determined to making improvements at the school and is very dedicated to a school he never attended. He talked about other projects, such as removing some fallen telephone poles.

Cook said he believes that by making Orange High School an aesthetically better place, it could only serve to help the students.

He reasons it just takes people doing their part and points to himself as a prime example.

“I have a full time job at Bishop’s Custom Kitchens. I do stump grinding on weekends. I have two teen-agers. My life is pretty full,” he said.

Still, to give back and make a contribution to the greater good is at the top of his list.

“Put yourself out in the community,” he said.

Go here to see the ACO story about Cook’s Landmark Education Project.

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