Akbar H. Cook may be the principal at Newark’s West Side High School, but he’s anything but typical. Aside from his towering 6’ 7” height, Cook’s swag is always on ten, a trait he attributes to his mother's influence. And as with almost everything he does, there’s a method to Cook’s drip. “I have to be that first person they want to be like,” he says referring to his students. “If I’m not doing it by how I carry myself, then I’m doing wrong by them, and they’re going to start gravitating to the nonsense.” 

In addition to being a style role model, Cook is a former Division I baller, who still moonlights as his school’s basketball coach. At West Side High, Cook uses basketball as a teaching metaphor for life. “I don’t call fouls in practice, because when the games come, I want players to know that life ain’t easy,” he explains. 

Still, Cook’s impeccable clothing and unique take on coaching are not the most distinctive things about him. Instead, he sets himself apart from other educators by being more than simply a principal. Rather, Cook is a man on a mission to serve his community and transform the lives of his students, who he lovingly refers to as “his babies.”