Carl Cooper

Gig Harbor High School senior embraces diversity, contributes to community, plans career in acting

Students of DistinctionMarch 26, 2014 

Carl Cooper has been described as a tenacious and curious individual who consistently strives for quality work. He has maintained a 3.7 grade-point average, and he’s pursued interests such as acting and community service.

“It’s all about self-discipline,” Cooper said about his success. “I never settled for less, and even on long days, when I’m super tired, I pushed through reading the textbook and keeping the end goal in mind.”

Cooper loves to be on stage. His first role was as a pirate in a Peter Pan play at Paradise Theatre, and he has worked his way to more challenging roles, including lead characters.

“I like the cathartic feeling of being able to step into someone else’s shoes,” he said. “It’s almost like getting into someone else’s psyche and creating a relatable character.”

Cooper has been active with several clubs at Gig Harbor High School, and he’s also volunteered as a tutor.

“Perhaps what sets Carl apart more than his academic ability is his tenacious and diligent work ethic; he is the type of student who is not comfortable settling for less than his best,” said Amanda Naylor, an English teacher at Gig Harbor High.

As an African-American, Cooper has struggled with diversity since he was young.

“Gig Harbor is a white, conservative town where the socioeconomic level is high and diversity is low,” he said. “I felt marginalized, as if I had no real voice in the community.”

After he took classes at Tacoma Community College, Cooper began to understand the power of diversity, not just with race but also in ideas, lifestyles and customs.

“I was afraid at first but embraced it, as it began to liberate me,” he said. “Now I adamantly use my voice to advocate my beliefs and feelings in my community.”

Cooper hopes to use his understanding of diversity in college and in his future career. He has been accepted to attended UCLA and plans to study communication or English and pursue an acting career.

“UCLA will allow me to continue this journey and connect with all types of people from all different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds who have all come together because of their common goals of furthering their education and achieving their dreams,” he said. “I want my words to ring throughout the community for years to come, leaving their mark as I venture through this vastly diverse world.”

Carl Cooper

Category: Overcoming Adversity

Education: Senior, Gig Harbor High School

GPA: 3.7

Parent: Charles Cooper

Activities/achievements: National Honor Society; Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society; ASB classroom representative; Drama Club; Power of the Bystander Club; Gig Harbor Film Festival volunteer; First Creek Middle School tutor; Tacoma Museum Playhouse acting job.

Favorite teacher: David Whitesell, history. “He made the subject of world history interesting. His class immensely improved my understanding of history, and it helped me grow academically.”

Best thing about high school: “Everyone in all my classes are really motivated and have a clear idea of what they want to do later in life, so being around all the motivation is inspiring.”

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