N.J. principal has been on ‘Ellen’ and is getting love from Sen. Booker, all thanks to washing machines

Updated Feb 14, 2019

West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook doesn’t check his Twitter account much.

But he took a look this week when someone made a negative comment about the washing machines he had installed at his school in Newark to deal with the bullying of kids who weren’t able to wash their school uniforms at home.

Unfazed by the comment, Cook continued to read previous Twitter messages and was stunned to a see a post from Sen. Cory Booker, who praised his actions and tagged him as a Black History Month figure.

The message from Booker said Cook’s “tireless work is an inspiration to us all.”

“Wow, it was surreal," Cook said. “I have a presidential candidate, someone who still lives in Newark, recognizing the work I did."

It wasn’t the first time Booker, a Democrat who previously served as Newark’s mayor and who announced his plans to run for president earlier this month, acknowledged Cook about the washing machines and dryers. When Cook first installed the machines in September, Cook said Booker sent a letter praising him for seeing a need and addressing it.

“I still have it," Cook said, talking about the letter. “I need to frame it. He signed it personally."

The washing machine story went viral and Cook wound up on the Ellen DeGeneres show. Through a partnership that she has with Cheerios to encourage “One Million Acts of Good," DeGeneres gave a $50,000 check to West Side.

Cheerios also gave West Side a year supply of food to stock the pantry for the school’s “Lights On” program that keeps kids off the street at night.

Since his national exposure, Cook has been a sought after speaker. He’s been to school districts in Las Vegas and Houston, Texas. Harvard University has invited him to talk this month and he’s slated to visit a school district in Herndon, Virginia.

“I can talk about my babies all day," he said of his students.

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