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Cooley family celebrates quarter century of service

Submitted by Delina Cooley

“It’s not the destination, but the journey!” has been our motto for a number of years. God sent us here 27 years ago to make a difference in the lives of people especially children. We both continue to give back to the community in a number of ways. What a blessing!

I have been reminiscing about the plans and purpose of why God sent us here. Why? It wasn’t because my mom was the first black baby born in Ahoskie hospital. It wasn’t even the fact that I was the first black physician assistant to work in Northampton County for 24 years. Was it to rear my children outside of city life? Was it that God knew than we needed to give back to a community where there is a need?

One thing I do know, God has a plan and a purpose for my husband and I being here. I was supposed to do my 18 months with the Public Health Service and then leave. Not so…we have always been active in church, education, community service and recreational sports. Our biggest most accomplished mission was to give an opportunity for young people to be exposed to life outside of Hertford County so that they can realized their full potential and how they can make valuable contribution to society and get the best education possible.

We started a drop -out prevention program during the summers by using the tool of basketball. Each member understood that they could use the basketball as a way to earn a college scholarship. Initially the program began with girls in 1993. Coach Ernest Cooley Jr. took his successful Hertford County Middle School girl’s basketball team to play in AAU competition. This was the same summer we went to Raleigh and I fainted and ended up in the emergency room with all of these beautiful young ladies around me. Low and behold, I found out I was pregnant with our first son. When I saw most of the girls at Hertford County High School Alumni night it brought back so many emotions. This is what led me to write this article. The same girls my husband coached in the early 90s now have children at the high school. Time sure flies.

For over 25 years Ernest Cooley Jr. has been dedicated to serving the children in the county. He has coached, taught and mentored hundreds of kids for at least two generations in Hertford and surrounding counties. He volunteered and committed to 25 summers to motivate and encourage young men in a positive environment in lieu of having too much idle time through the Immanuel Kings drop-out prevention program. “It’s not the destination, but the journey.”

Many of the News-Herald readers may remember Mr. Cooley from Immanuel Kings. Some may remember him from Hertford County Middle, Bearfield or C.G. White or working with the Ahoskie Bobcats. In any event whether in paid capacity or not, he is committed to making a difference in the lives of children and counts it an honor to return to his hometown in a greater capacity.

Mr. Cooley is known for his love of God, family and children. He believes in giving back. How many people do you know would give up 25 summers to make a difference in the lives of children that aren’t biologically yours? Often our family vacations were wherever the team had to play basketball. Of course I was the scorebook keeper, but I didn’t mind because I too believe in the Biblical principle of giving back and setting a good example. I actually enjoyed being the “team momma” Moreover, our sons, Jalen and Jair have a bunch of big brothers.

The Immanuel Kings have traveled all over North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Minnesota, Georgia, Florida and Michigan. We were blessed to have such strong community support and sponsors. We are truly grateful that you made so many dreams come true. The life lessons, fellowship and the competition all helped to shape these young people. All participants graduated from high school, many graduated from college, are working and even one participant has his Doctorate. What a blessing! We want the best for every child both on and off the court.

Now God is using Mr. Cooley on a larger scale as Principal of Hertford County High School. It is so amazing that he wants to help his hometown and make a greater difference in the lives of more children in “our community.” He wants every child to succeed and be a productive member of society, understand rules and live life to the full! Times change and people grow, but we never forget to invest in children, their education and well-being. Remember God has a plan and purpose. We must be in His perfect will for our lives.

I really just wanted to say thanks for all that you do to help our community. Too often we highlight the negative and not accent the positive. I hope that all of the community, teachers, students, coaches, parents and business owners rally behind Mr. Cooley to make Hertford County High School the best it can be. It takes a strategic village to raise a child, from primary school to high school. Let’s be “ALL in” for the children of the Hertford County!

Coach Cooley, Principal Cooley, former US Navy Corpsman Cooley, Sunday School teacher Cooley….we thank you for your continued service. Congratulations on 25 years of volunteer service!