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Dra Cook is NEXT
Dra Cook stands at the far right along with teachers and fellow students

Dra Cook, right, is a senior at Thomas Nelson High School and one of December's NEXT Award winners.


Dra Cook looks to give back through mentorship, compassion for others

As a new transfer his freshman year at Thomas Nelson, Dra Cook didn’t know many of his classmates and had no clear vision of where his future story would lead.

But he was paired with a mentor who was an upperclassman as part of the school’s Care & Connect system. 

A little less than three years later, Cook is a senior with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner and spends many of his school hours working in the Foster Heights Care Clinic assisting the nurses as they care for the elementary students.

And he has taken on the mentorship role himself now — not just for one student but for any underclassman who needs it.

“I just try to help them, try to help them reach where they want to be when they grow up,” Dra said. “That’s what my mentor did, along with my teachers. He talked to me about what I wanted to do.”

It’s that extra effort to help his younger classmates that was the impetus for Dra’s nomination in December as the winner of the NEXT Award.

Dra said during community tables at the start of the year that he wanted to reach out to students in his Care & Connect.

“He has done just that. He has a way of reaching out to others and connecting with those around him. I've seen him sit with multiple different people this year and talk about things they are interested in,” said Hunter McCarty, the TNHS teacher who co-leads his Care & Connect. “Dra is a fantastic leader and is willing to answer hard questions and have genuine conversations with his peers.” 

Dra Cook, left, uses a thermometer to check a student's temperature

Dra Cook checks a Foster Heights student's temperature in the Care Clinic where he works as an assistant as part of his profession based experience.


His school and his mentors helped him find his way toward a future in health care, but he found his inspiration from his mother, who works in the healthcare field.

“It’s just how I was raised,” Dra said. “I was always raised to help another person when you can, so whenever I can help a person, I try as much as I possibly can.”

That concern for others shows in his work at the Foster Heights Care Clinic, and the seasoned nurses he works alongside noted his ability to connect with the young patients will translate into success caring for patients once he enters the profession.

“Dra has a natural connection with young children.  He is great at building relationships with the kids he works with,” said Marley Cecil, the RN for Foster Heights’ Care Clinic. “His empathy and compassion show through experiences with Foster Heights students. Both in and out of the classroom, Dra has a positive impact on the lives of the people around him.”

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Dra Cook, left, uses a thermometer to check a student's temperature

Dra Cook, a senior at Thomas Nelson High School, was recognized for his care for his community as a December NEXT Award recipient.