Akbar Cook, Program Director, Lights On!
The Lights On! Program was born from the vision of Mr. Akbar Cook, Vice Principal of West Side High School. Mr. Akbar Cook, or simply “Cook” as his colleagues, students, and players have so affectionately nicknamed him, can be described in two simple words; Newark’s Pride. Born and raised in Newark’s West Ward, Cook attended Essex Catholic High School, where he played basketball. He was awarded two collegiate basketball scholarships to Division I schools – first to St. Catherine’s in Kentucky and then to Florida Atlantic University (FAU). After graduating from FAU, Cook completed his Master’s Degree from St. Peters University. Cook’s love for children and basketball led him to Newark Vocational (which later became West Side High School) in 2008, where he became Head Coach of the Boys Basketball team, and in 2012, he became Vice Principal. Along with his players, Mr. Cook volunteers in soup kitchens and participates in holiday drives. He also organizes recreational activities for the students and works closely with Newark Police Department to ensure safe transportation for all of the kids after the functions end. When Cook is not maneuvering through the many perils and arduous tasks that come along with being a Vice Principal and Head Basketball Coach during the school year, he serves as Co-Director of LifeCamp, a summer camp for children from the greater Newark area.