Paige Cooke

Paige Cooke, whose efforts to collect pencils for her teachers at Wheat Middle School expanded to a full-blown school supplies campaign that garnered national attention, has left something special behind to remember her by. Now a freshman, she hopes to initiate a school supply collection drive involving the Cleburne High School student body.

The Wheat Pencil Pal left a parting gift for her teachers, as she now begins her freshman year at Cleburne High School.

Paige Cooke, whose efforts to collect pencils for her teachers at Wheat Middle School expanded to a full-blown school supplies campaign that garnered national attention, has left something special to remember her by — in addition to restocking the Kindness Closet she helped establish.

Cooke dedicated much of her summer to her collection efforts, which now address student school supply needs districtwide, in addition to babysitting her younger siblings. She used the money she earned to purchase a wooden bench as a gift to the campus and teachers that have given her so much over the last three years.

“It was heard leaving Wheat,” Paige said. “I am going to miss the great teachers who have taught me so much — and made learning fun. I’ve also donated some books from my personal library. I want the kids at Wheat to enjoy reading like I do.”

The donation of the bench also gave her the opportunity to collaborate with one of her favorite WMS faculty members, Keri Denning, who has been her art teacher the past two years. Denning lent her artistic talents to the bench, including stylizing the armrests into pencils, reflecting Paige’s school supply initiative. It also features her social media hashtag, “kindness matters,” and the phrase “no act of kindness is ever wasted.”

“School supplies only last so long,” said Paige’s mother, Angel Cook. “Paige wanted something lasting to let her teachers know how much they have meant to her, and all the students at Wheat. She also wanted Ms. Denning to paint the bench. All the colors work together to make a difference in the world and I think this colorful bench shows that. Paige is hoping the teachers will sign the back of the bench.”

Principal Suzie Keesee was surprised and pleased with the donation from the departing eighth grader, whose generosity and student leadership will not be forgotten.

“I love the bench,” Keesee said. “And we are going to miss her. We are so proud of all Paige has accomplished in doing good things for others. She has brought some special recognition to Wheat because of all she has done. We can’t wait to see what she does next.”

At the top of Paige’s list is getting students at CHS engaged in her ongoing school supply collection drive. Her experience as Wheat Student Council president should help with that.

“I want to get the kids at the high school involved,” Cook said. “I’m not sure how, but I will get it figured out.”

In the meantime, she is learning her way around a new campus, new classes and new routines as a first-year member of the CHS Showstoppers Dance Team.

“I think I have made a difference in helping teachers, first with pencils to give to students who were needing one, and then with pens, notebooks, paper and the basic things students need for class, but might not have,” Paige said. “I’m always going to do this project, because I know how much it has helped teachers and kids.”

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