Win a Winner!
Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
Where does 12-year-old Leyla Cook think she’ll apply her $10,000 Kohl’s Cares scholarship? “USC,” she says. “I’m not sure what I want to study yet. My favorite subject is math. And I love video production – I’m learning all about it.”
by Vivien Santana Hughes
This week, my 7-year-old daughter had chorus rehearsal, soccer practice, Spanish class and a Brownie meeting – all before the weekend’s slate of activities. As my fellow parents and I fret about overscheduling, a very busy 12-year-old from Garden Grove can teach us an important lesson in priorities.
Leyla Cook was recently awarded a $10,000 scholarship from Kohl’s in recognition for her significant volunteer efforts – more than 600-hours’ worth. One of 10 national finalists in the Kohl’s Cares program, Cook not only gives her time, she conceives and leads programs and gets her fellow students on board (within 30 minutes, 200 signed up for her Project Soldier club). Her Holiday Card Drive, which sent 35,000 cards, donated by Hallmark, to troops overseas, even made the Guinness Book of Records for the most cards signed in one day. In addition, Kohl’s made a $1,000 donation in her name to the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
“It makes me feel happy, says the Pioneer Middle School 7th grader, and Presidential Service Award winner, about volunteering. “I know people are getting helped.” Leyla’s dad, David Cook, adds privately, “Isn’t she awesome? She thinks it’s no big deal. She’s very humble and super approachable, and she really likes to help people out.” Awesome? Yep. L.A. Parents, we think you’ll agree.
Were you expecting you’d be one of the finalists?
Actually, no I didn’t. UPS dropped it off. I opened up [the box] and said, “Whoa! The Kohl’s award!”
What got you started on volunteering to help others?
My dad took me to one of the military bases. They needed help, so I helped them and liked it, so I kept on doing it. Then we started a club at school about it and everybody started helping.
Some have dads who are soldiers, so they thought it would be pretty cool to join. They told their friends about it and they came and they liked it. We made cards, we made quilts for them – that was really fun. They appreciated that because they had nothing there. And we made care packages. And we wrote letters to the soldiers. They’re probably pretty happy now.
How do you balance your volunteer work and school work?
I have a directed studies class where they let me do my homework, so I can get most of it done. Then I have time to volunteer.
What are your plans for your next club?
I want to do a diabetes association. I know a few people who have diabetes. We’ll raise money to find a cure for it. And raise awareness – show everyone how to eat healthy so you won’t get it. Support them.
What advice do you have for parents on getting their kids to volunteer?
My dad just said to never quit, always do your best, try your hardest. That kept me motivated.
The 2013 nomination period for the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program is Feb. 1 – March 15. Find out more at www.kohlskids.com
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