How do you solve a problem of school attendance in a high school where the kids are skipping school because they are being bullied due to their smelly or dirty clothes?

This is a quagmire surely requiring extraordinary thinking from someone who is willing to strategize far outside the boundaries of acceptable solutions.

At West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, Akbar Cook is a principal with principles and great character. Cook told a reporter that he just wanted to make sure that kids didn’t miss school because of being bullied and that some were being picked on because of dirty clothes. Some of these cases even turned into cyber-bullying, as students were photographing the dirty clothing and then mocking the students on social media.

“They were choosing to stay home rather than coming to school to be bullied or ridiculed,” Principal Cook said. “We didn’t know until we started making calls.”

These students simply did not have the resources to keep their school uniforms clean. Diversity Inc reports that a school where 81% of the students come from low-income homes, it isn’t difficult for a student to become another statistic when societal and economic obstacles rear their ugly heads. The loving but firm principal recognized the effects of poverty on his pupils. When he was a vice principal at that same school, Cook noticed some students weren’t attending classes regularly because of bullying due to the condition of their clothes or hygiene.

So he took action.

The Next Leap Forward

Principal Cook and his staff made the necessary connections to secure a $20,000 grant from the PSEG Foundation. With the resources they were able to convert the football locker room into a laundry room, complete with five washing machines and five dryers.

Principal Akbar Cook is a shining example of a Brink Thinker. He knew it was a problem that needed solving and he set out on a mission to solve it. Not in the usual manner.

If he was to solve the attendance problem, then he had to solve the bullying problem. If the bullying problem was to be solved, then he had to solve the dirty clothes problem. It truly was a quagmire. But solvable IF you’re willing to get beyond the obstacles to get to the real point of impact.

It comes down to our character and the ability to think in a selfless manner. To have the courage to lead by example and take your problem to action – especially when it seems like an absurd idea. It may just indicate that you are closer to solving the problem that you think.

Here are my 7 TRAITS THAT DEFINE GREAT CHARACTER to help guide you on your journey friends.

1 – Doing the right thing when no one is looking
2 – Living through your core principles without waver
3 – Giving selflessly of yourself to aid others in need
4 – Having the courage to take on the unthinkable
5 – Acting out by example, your talk becoming action
6 – To define yourself, thru your own conscience
7 – Provide a symbol of hope, honesty, and sincere humility

Let me leave you with these three incredible quotes from three very different personalities with one thing in common GREAT CHARACTER.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people. Dennis Prager