Election day 2014 is a big day for Williams College. In Massachusetts, Martha Coakley ’71 is running for governor. In Virginia, a pair of Ephs are battling each other for a spot in the US House of Representatives. And in San Francisco, twenty-nine-year-old Stevon Cook is making his first bid for elected office as a candidate for the city’s School Board.
In many ways Cook’s story is the most remarkable. Born and raised in public housing in San Francisco’s Bay View region, Cook struggled to find his way in a world set against him. He was educated in failing public schools, saw drugs and alcohol break apart families of friends and loved ones, and watched as many of his childhood peers lost hope for a better future.
Arriving at Williams in the fall of 2004, Cook took pride in the fact that he had defied the odds. Thousands of miles from his home, Cook saw Williams as the launching point for a life of impact. He harbored visions of himself as the first black governor of California.
But Williams was difficult. Cook had always prided himself as being a top student, but he quickly found himself struggling to stay in the middle of the pack. It wasn’t until junior year that he joined his first extracurricular group – a public service organization called the Griffin Society. “The people who would be most surprised that I’m running for public office would be the people I went to college with because I was not, not, not that type of person at Williams.”