We are honored to spotlight long-time monthly sustainer Lucas Cooke, the principal of Bushwick School for Social Justice, one of Make the Road New York’s partner high schools.
What’s your hometown?
Vernon NJ, a little rural town in northwest New Jersey. It’s actually like a tiny little farming town, small population, mostly trees and pastures.
So how did you become a principal in Brooklyn?
Nine years ago I moved to Brooklyn and started teaching. I was a teacher here at the Bushwick School for Social Justice (BSSJ), then I became assistant principal, and now I’m the principal.
What time do you start your day?
I usually get to the school at 7 or before. I’ll stay ‘til 4:30 or 5:00pm. Pretty much a ten-hour day every day, but I’ll bring work home with me.
What’s one of the most critical issues BSSJ is facing right now?
About 28% of our students are not native English speakers and still struggle to navigate the issues from that, like becoming a citizen, learning English. It’s a big issue.
How have your students been involved in MRNY’s work?
MRNY has campaigned, with BSSJ students playing a big role, on the inequity in finances in urban schools, and today the average expenditure per pupil in our schools like ours, in a poor neighborhood like Bushwick, is still miniscule compared to those in wealthier districts. We’ve got to keep addressing this inequity.
What is another social justice issue that’s important to you personally?
LGBTQ issues continue to be the civil rights issues of our day and still create legal boundaries for Americans. I am the Co-Faculty Advisor of the Gay Straight Alliance that we started at BSSJ with the help of MRNY. I’m very proud of that.
What inspired you to give?
My personal experiences with MRNY, experiences that anyone who spends time there, who listens to members speak, talks to the children there understands immediately. When you see the work they do in the community, the impact, the level of empowerment they cultivate in people who have been disenfranchised, it’s an easy decision to give to MRNY.
I just went to the Social Justice Expo, to see our students being impassioned enough to talk to complete strangers about the issues they face — it was overwhelming to see their growth.
Why did you become a monthly sustainer?
It allows me to give a manageable amount, so I don’t feel it in my wallet, and it doesn’t sting as much. When I see the monthly thank you email, I know it’s automated, but it makes me happy to remember that I give monthly.
Where do you like to go in Bushwick?
Just standing on the platform of the M train at Myrtle-Wyckoff, watching everyone walk around below, kind of brings tranquility to me. It’s a fascinating vantage point.
Thank you so much, Lucas, for supporting Make the Road New York!
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