Senior Spotlight: Cooper White
Cooper White lives on a family farm in a corner of Guilford County.
His friends poke at him, saying “Cooper, you live in the middle of nowhere.” Not quite, Cooper tells them. He can drive to Burlington in 10 minutes. And yet, his family’s land is a place of solitude far from traffic and concrete. It helped him grow.
He’ll see cattle grazing or work in his grandparents’ garden and be reminded to respect nature and the bounty it provides. Or he can walk toward the fishing pond and remember how he has hunted deer and turkey with his dad and his paternal grandfather on the family’s 85 acres so many times.
Cooper has been hunting with his dad and his grandfather since he was 3. He lives 200 yards from his paternal grandparents and a 30-minute drive from his maternal grandparents in Brown Summit.
For Cooper, those relationships are special. Baseball is special, too.
Always A Mighty Ram
Cooper has played since he was 6. His dad has been his coach, and his grandparents have been his fans. With every game he’s played, Cooper could look in the stands and see both sets of grandparents. They always came to see him play.
Cooper now steps away from the game and the family land he loves. He’ll graduate Saturday from Northeast High and head to Appalachian State University to begin the next phase of his life.
Cooper is sharp. He’s the valedictorian of Northeast High. He’s also a student leader. He’s been the student body president for the past four years, and he’s also a member of the Leadership Club and three of the school’s honor societies.
For the past two years, he’s taken classes at the Wendover Avenue campus of Guilford Technical Community College, and he’ll enter ASU with enough credits to be considered a sophomore.
He’s still undecided about a major. Yet, he knows his time at Northeast High has prepared him well and he’ll take with him memories that he’ll hold close.
It’s no wonder his entire family has a wardrobe of navy and gray. Those are the school colors of Northeast High. Like his dad, a longtime coach at Northeast High for 23 years, Cooper will forever be a Mighty Ram.
“I think of all the opportunities and the clubs I’ve involved myself in, and I’m really grateful,” Cooper says. “To be involved with things like that have prepared me to get out on my own and go into a college setting prepared wherever I’m at.
“But I’m a homebody, I’m from a small town, and I know I can jump in my truck and be home in two hours from Appalachian.”
The Timeless Lessons from Baseball
Cooper is the only child of Brad and Jenny White. His parents are both teachers at Madison Elementary. Brad teaches physical education; Jenny teaches kindergarten; and Cooper grew up knowing the importance of education. He also grew up honing his passion for baseball.
By the time he started playing T-ball for the Yankees and Gators with Gibsonville Recreation Department, Cooper immersed himself in a game that taught him much more than how to hit a curve ball.
Baseball took Cooper to as far away as Marion, Illinois. He played with the Greensboro All-Stars in the Colt League World Series, and they competed against teams from Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
He saw how those teams played the game differently. Yet, in a stadium where the minor-league team known as the Southern Illinois Miners play, Cooper discovered how a game invented in the United States could bring the world together.
That’s one of the many lessons Cooper will take with him to ASU and beyond.
Now, after 12 years of living spring and summer on a baseball diamond, Cooper will step away from his position at first base and hang up No. 19, the number on his navy-and-gray Northeast uniform.
“The biggest thing for me that, yes, it’s a game, but it does teach you certain values,” he says. “The work ethic that you put into it and the values it teaches you help make you a better person in life.
“For example, you make a mistake, and you learn from it, and that drive to succeed and passion to win is something that can carry over with you in life, whether it’s in a job or a career or going to college,” Cooper says. “Those things go hand in hand.”
What about dreams? What about playing baseball beyond high school?
“I saw early on that everybody has a misconception about playing in the major leagues, and it’s good to dream and have aspirations, but you have to be realistic with yourself,” he says. “I saw early on that I probably wasn’t going to play at that high level, and grades are far more important that what you do on a baseball field.
“You take what God gives you, and you build off of it from there.”
Mentors from Northeast
Like with the lessons he learned in baseball, he also sees what he gained from Northeast High. Ask him about that, and Cooper talks about people rather than academic principles.
Like Lateshia Hawkins. She got him to take her leadership class, which led to the Leadership Club. Or Mrs. Wanda Lynne Fedor. She got him into student government that first year. Or Coach Simpson or Coach Suggs. They were there for him in baseball.
And of course, Kathy Reese. She works in the front office. She’s been there forever. She was there when Cooper’s dad began working at Northeast more than two decades ago. And she’s there for Cooper. He says he’d rather help her than spend time with friends in the cafeteria.
“She’s showed me how to treat people,” he says. “She doesn’t know a stranger, and it’s cool to have someone like that in your corner.”
Northeast High will always be a part of Cooper. Baseball, too. And the outdoors.
With every fall, he knows where he’d like to be – in a field with his paternal grandfather, Travis White. Cooper calls him Papaw.
“Just seeing nature around you,” he says. “I can sit there, and even if I didn’t have any luck, I can see a sunset, and that will make it all worth it.”