Cokeley Interviewed!

Recently, Mr. Cokeley was interviewed for the school paper, The Banner. Below is the article featured in the paper.

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Mr. Cokeley: Miles Away from Home
By Lana Li

Mr. Cokeley always yearns to go home.

He began exploring different ecosystems decades ago and the hobby has developed into a passion and lifelong pursuit. He has traveled to all of the states as well as dozens of places around the world.

But there is only one place to which Cokeley feels he belongs.
“I feel at home in the jungle,” he said. “The wilderness provides a very new and different feeling.”

Because of its warmth and high biotic diversity, the rainforest tops Cokeley’s list of favorite ecosystems. Cokeley started camping and traveling when he was a little kid. He became interested in traveling in his teens.

“I was into nature and understanding it,” said Cokeley. “I found that many biological connections cross over into all aspects of life.”

It was college, however, that determined the path of his life. In courses like zoology and ecology, Cokeley found that he absorbed information not because he wanted to maintain his GPA but because he was fascinated by his studies.

He realized that he never wanted this fascination to fade. He decided to become a high school biology teacher so that he could encourage the same enthusiasm in his students and so that he would be able to spend the long summer breaks traveling to very different places of the world.

“I grew up in Middlesex County, New Jersey,” Cokeley said. “All these trips are an opportunity to see and learn something new every time. You get to see a whole new way of what people believe.”

Teachers also receive lots of research grant opportunities. Cokeley has never been turned down from a grant. He believes that it is because in his applications, he always says that in addition to his experience and willingness to help research, he can repair a broken car. He has received generous grants from the Earthwatch Institute, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

In many of the communities he has visited abroad, people lived entirely different lifestyles. Many places had limited water and no hot water or air conditioning, let alone the latest technological and scientific equipment.

“People [scientists] do amazing things with limited resources,” said Cokeley.

To help out the local people, Cokeley likes to bring school supplies, clothing and soccer balls with him on his trips.

“It means a lot more to them than it does to us,” he said.
Oftentimes, a partnership formed between the village people and researchers. The scientists would persuade the local people to become more involved in conservation and in making the wildlife valuable to them.

Cokeley has studied the effects of Grevy zebra herds on vegetation, examined bees in Brazil, conducted a statistical analysis on rubber tree seeds and has worked long days in the middle of nowhere.

“A lot of people haven’t seen the things I’ve seen,” he said.

Over the summer, Cokeley drove to Montana and Wyoming from New Jersey to dig up fossils. He found fossils of sea life and dinosaur bones and submitted them to the Trenton State Museum.

Digging fossils brings back warm memories for Cokeley, as some of his first dates with Mrs. Cokeley were spent collecting them.

Although Mrs. Cokeley does not share the same passion as her husband, she always supports Mr. Cokeley’s journeys and endeavors.

“My wife’s happy to see me go every time,” joked Cokeley. On a more serious note, he added, “She knows I need to do it because it keeps me sane.”

Cokeley believes that everyone needs a home away from home. For him, it’s the wilderness. Perhaps the best part about calling the jungle home is that Cokeley can find the same comfort in multiple places; there are about 700 jungles in the world.

“When he talks about his travels around the world, he gives me so much inspiration,” said Harsha Seelam ’12, one of Cokeley’s AP Biology students. “He seems so full of experience and wisdom that you can’t help but admire him.”

“Students get all starry-eyed when I tell them these stories, but you guys can do the same thing,” said Cokeley. “It’s an amazing place out there.”

Though Cokeley will not be returning home to a jungle for a while, he will always crave the wet soil, humidity and rich wildlife of the rainforest. Sometimes, he even misses the mosquito bites.

It’s the strangest places we call home.

Tommy Ikuss featured in NBTHS Paper

Recently, The Banner, the school paper, featured Tommy Ikuss in one of its articles. Below, is the article about Pit Crew Captain Ikuss.

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Tommy Ikuss: Robotix Pit Crew Captain to Engineer
By Julia DeCicco

Technologically savvy, Tommy Ikuss aspires to be an engineer once he graduates NBTHS.

With talents that extend far beyond the classroom, Ikuss exhibits a multitude of strengths.

“I really like to spread my wings and do as many things as possible, and although this is a good thing, it is difficult being constantly busy and always running around,” said Ikuss.

Outside of the classroom, Ikuss excels as the pit crew captain of Robotix and is responsible for building the team’s robot and then maintaining it during competitions. As pit crew captain, Ikuss has been able to cultivate his interests in science and engineering while simultaneously having fun.

“Not only have I learned so much about science and engineering, but I have also met so many interesting people and have gone to so many cool places like Atlanta, St. Louis and Las Vegas.”

In addition to participating in Robotix, Ikuss is a student-athlete. He is a member of the cross-country and volleyball teams. Of all his extracurricular interests, he finds his position as a youth leader for Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen Change Campaign one of the most gratifying.

“We essentially work to raise money for Elijah’s Promise Food Bank,” he said.

Maintaining above a 4.35 GPA all throughout high school, Ikuss has had to work hard. Although he has always managed to excel academically, he admits that high school has not been easy.

“Time management and staying on top of my schoolwork and all my extracurricular activities has been really challenging at times,” Ikuss said.

Despite the rigor of his academic schedule, he has always managed to have fun. In his spare time, he exercises, hangs out with friends, plays viola and reads.

Ikuss has many fond memories of high school, including the German exchange program. He describes it as the best time of his life.

“I met so many cool people in Germany, got to experience German culture firsthand and got to see and do so many cool things, from medieval castles to Berlin.”

Academically speaking, he has enjoyed Mr. Beaumont’s AP English Language and Composition course the most in high school.

“It was very intensive but I learned so much, and I am so much better off having taken it,” he said.

Ikuss plans on applying to many schools, all of which excel in the sciences because he is certain that he wants to pursue a career in engineering. He is not sure which engineering discipline he wants to study yet.

“I want to make a difference as an engineer and I really hope that once I get out into the working world, I can turn my hard work and dedication towards a meaningful project.”