Since the YES (Youth Enrichment Services) program kicked off in 2006, the initiative has provided enrichment and academic activities for 1,000 youth within the Baldwin County public school system each year. As the new YES program director, Julie Cook looks forward to putting her vision in place and find ways to implement her ideas for students.
“I have a lot of thoughts. With the Professors-in-Residence program, I want to work more closely with Georgia College to share knowledge and professional development training. I want to move Baldwin High School to a project-based learning,” she said. “We want parents to be comfortable coming into our schools and with what their children spend their day doing. We’re always looking for sustainability in everything we do, and our community and parents are a big piece of that sustainability.”
Cook studied at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Georgia College, earning a liberal studies degree. She was the first in her family to graduate and earn a degree. Cook began her own business until she felt “there was something else I was supposed to do.”
“I went to work as a substitute teacher at a middle school in Washington County to clear my head. What I left with was the understanding that education was where I wanted to be,” she said. “I was asked to apply for School to Work initiative, which I changed the name to Education and Career, through the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education. I was over seven counties and based in Sandersville Technical College. I started making connections with kids needing to be successful in life ... I looked at initiatives that were seamless to help prepare them.”
Her career lead her to work for the company that provided the curriculum that aligned with the ACT WorkKeys (Work Ready) initiative, covering 17 states. From working with grassroots organizations to the Governor’s Office, Cook helped individuals prepare for work and post-secondary education, and economic development initiatives in various cities.