“One of the most powerful examples of what I did was when I met with the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. I spent a year and a half flying back and forth there and I met with a committee and asked them how we can help their nation. They said, ‘don’t take our young people from us.’ That was a flashbulb moment in my life,” Cook said. “As a small community, just as the Navajo Nation, we don’t want our young people to leave and go somewhere else. We’re trying to assist the Baldwin County school system in preparing young people to graduate and have a choice to go to college or work, or do both.”
Her life journey eventually led her to cross paths with the former Georgia College director of Grants Proposal Development and Special Projects, Linda Watson-Kaufman. Cook began a part-time position as the Work Ready instructor for the YES program in 2008.
“I got to work directly with high school students. I became a program assistant soon after and then the education coordinator at the high school. I took on the full-time position three years ago,” she said. “As the education coordinator, I took the YES program that was failing with only about 20 students, to now having 104 students. The other YES programs already had a sense of family and now the Baldwin High School YES program has it too.”
Kaufman retired as the director of after school achievement and Cook officially filled the position Sept. 16.
“It was bittersweet for me when I was asked to think about applying for the directors job because I knew I would have big shoes to fill and I knew I would be leaving students that I think of as my own children,” Cook said. “I love each and every one of those kids at the high school.”