An educator from Newark, New Jersey is doing all that he can to protect his students from becoming victims of bullying. Akbar Cook—the principal of West Side High School—transformed one of the spaces at the school into a laundry room so that students who were teased for wearing dirty garments would be able to wash their clothes, ABC News reported.
The idea for the laundry room came after Cook noticed that several students were skipping school because they felt self-conscious about their clothes, the news outlet writes. The students were often teased by their peers because of their hygiene. There was one incident where a student refused to have her bag checked and it was later discovered that she was homeless and was ashamed of carrying a bag of unclean clothes back and forth to school. After noticing a rise in absenteeism, Cook decided to turn the football team’s locker room into a laundry room.
After news spread about the laundry room, individuals from the community stepped up and donated items like dryer sheets and detergent to offset the costs for students. “When school starts on September the 4th, my kids will be able to use it daily after school,” Cook told the news outlet. He also added that although he’s only been in his role for two weeks, his students are his priority and he will continue to find ways to better their lives. Cook believes that creating a comfortable environment for students is key to keeping them engaged in the classroom and results in academic success.
Cook—a native of Newark—has been dedicated to empowering the community’s youth for quite some time. According to NJ.com, in 2016 he launched the Lights On Program where he turned West Side High School into a safe space for youngsters during the evening to keep them off of the street.