Editor’s note: The Azle News interviewed a student from the Azle High School senior class this spring to discuss the young person’s next move in life: leaving home to attend college. Micah Cook will attend Tarleton State University, and the News was in Stephenville last week when Cook moved into his residence hall. The News also interviewed his parents to talk about their son and find what it’s like to see the last of their three children leave the nest.
BY DON MUNSCH
Micah Cook loves being in the outdoors.
He spent some time this summer in the outdoors, including taking a trip to Colorado, where he and his brother went backpacking and flyfishing. He also went on a trip with his girlfriend Kendal Hann’s family and visited the Hill Country and Lake LBJ.
Now with the summer essentially gone, Cook looks forward to his next adventure: college.
Born in Fort Worth, Cook grew up in Azle. At AHS, he was a member of PALs, National Honor Society and the Rowdies - a school spirit group - and played soccer, according to the bio provided to the News for the senior class section. At Tarleton, he will major in geology with an environmental science cluster attached to it. He said he will be able to have a career in either field – geology or environmental science – after he graduates.
“I really wanted to be outside in a career – I don’t want to be stuck in an office,” he said.
He’s not sure what kind of job he will pursue yet, as he said with a geology degree a person could venture into oil and gas or construction.
“I’m more interested in soil reclamation for farmers or ranchers who overuse their soil, and they can’t grow anything,” he said. “You just kind of help them rebuild it and get it back to (normal) and what they need for it for the operation.”
He said he experienced some initial nervousness about heading off to college, but he has two older siblings and they have been through this transition before. His sister attends Tarleton and his brother attended the University of North Texas. Chloe, his sister, will be 22 in September. His brother, Noah, 26, left UNT and went to film school in Dallas.
“As it gets really closer, I’m sad to leave everybody, but I think it’s going to be a good change and I’m excited for it,” he said before leaving Azle. He chose Tarleton because the school offered him money for his schooling. He liked Tarleton’s small-college feel and the atmosphere of the community.
Micah’s parents, Matt and Keely, helped with Micah’s move-in last Friday at Tarleton State. After family members and volunteers at the school helped carry items to his room at the high-rise residence hall, Micah and his brother, sister-in-law Megan and mom and dad along with Micah’s girlfriend Kendal helped set up items in his room, such as his drapes and bed. Less than an hour into the move-in, Micah’s roommate, Jacob Martin of Alvord, arrived with parents Parris and Kelly Martin.
“I don’t know if we’re quite ready for it,” Keely said about her son leaving the nest, in an interview a day before Micah left. “We’re excited for him.”
“Well, you know, for us, it helps that this is not the first one,” Matt said. “You kind of know what’s going to happen. We see his siblings have gotten older and have gotten married, establishing themselves.”
He said he and Keely have no “have no reason to be worried. It’s just a …”
“Natural progression,” Keely said.
“Natural progression,” he said, agreeing. “With the first one, you just don’t know. And I also think it makes it easier for (Micah) because he’s got them (as a guide), too, and has watched them go through adulting and had them to look to for examples.”
As for advice on attending college, Chloe gave him a particular piece of wisdom.
“She said I can’t come back for a month,” Micah said, noting it worked for her.
Chloe also suggested he get involved in activities on campus. He expects to join some organizations, including those that are outdoor-oriented. He enjoys flyfishing and recently participated in rock climbing. He also enjoys analog photography.
He said he will miss his family and his girlfriend, Kendal, a 2021 AHS grad who attends Tarrant County College, when he leaves for college.
“And we have a little Bible study group that meets up every weekend,” he said. “It will be hard leaving them, too.”
Micah looked at Angelo State and Texas A&M University as schools he was considering attending, but Tarleton’s financial package was “incredible,” Keely said, and she said it was hard to say no. He was in the top 10% in his class at AHS.
“He also was able to call a professor before (deciding) and talk to them, and he really had a good feel, and when he was there on campus, he met with one of them,” Matt said. Keely said he talked with several professors, and he got really excited about the school after that. Smaller schools have the advantage of smaller class sizes and students can get to know professors better, Matt said.
“And his sister and Chloe’s friends really kind of talked to him about that, too, that you really do know your professors,” Keely said. “Tarleton still really is small enough that you get to know them, you feel that they care about you if there’s an issue or problem; they’re there to help you. And then the program he’s going into there is pretty small.”
Matt shared how he taught fifth grade at Azle Elementary School, and he taught Micah when he was a fifth grader.
“That was a real blessing to have that time with him,” Matt said, adding that he knew everything he did each day – good and bad – as Micah rode with him every day. Plus, Matt knew all of his friends.
What’s Micah looking forward to the most?
He said being able to pursue what he wants from education, rather than having a counselor advise what classes he has to take.
“I guess the freedom,” he said, explaining what he will enjoy about college life.
He has applied for a job on campus – outdoor pursuits in the rec center, where employees rent hiking gear and oversee the climbing wall.
He said also will enjoy meeting new people and making friends. Before departing for Stephenville, he contacted his roommate. He thinks he can meet the challenges of moving away from home, and he credits his parents for their influence in that matter.
Matt said he thinks Micah is “pretty squared away in his faith and who is as a person.” He described Micah as “kind of picky and he already knows things he likes and doesn’t like.” Keely said Micah is independent and she and Matt have encouraged all three children to “know what they want and know how to do things. I think that’s important.”
“We tried to raise children that were free-thinking, independent people,” Matt said.
Keely describes her son as a leader who is funny and was easy to manage, and Matt thinks Micah will be influential to others. Matt said Micah has been taught with the values important to them and that they were biblically based. They wanted their children to have a faith and make it theirs and know why it’s important. They also hoped they would be willing to go against the grain of culture and to do what’s right.
“We just hope that he remembers what he’s been taught while he was in our home and takes hold of that,” Keely said.
Matt said he and Keely hope Micah will be a father and husband someday.
Micah said the most important lessons learned from his parents were having a strong faith and staying close to God, trusting that God will provide for him.
“And don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help,” he said.