Humans of Harker: You’ve got a friend in me

Griffin Crook (12) sparks joy in others

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Nina Gee

“A lot of people know me as the doughnut guy, but my main thing [is] kindness. The doughnuts were just a part of that. Sometimes people don’t have other people to reach out to or to get the assistance they need or the distraction they need. I want to be able to off-set the negative people in the world. It’s easier to complain and be negative than be happy all the time, so I’d rather be the happy person that people can go to,” Griffin Crook (12) said.

A bright yellow dress shirt reminiscent of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. A neon pink tracksuit with matching shoes. A long-sleeved shirt depicting an orange and black cat adorned in a blue cape, boldly wielding a sword and shield and surrounded by purple lightning. These are just a few examples of the outgoing, eye-catching outfits you would find if you glanced at Griffin Crook’s (12) closet.

If you meet Griffin at any given day of the week, you’ll encounter two things: an outstandingly outlandish wardrobe, and a smile brighter than the sun. Since the beginning of senior year, Griffin has made it a point to spark joy in others the moment he meets them.

“[Griffin] always stands out from the crowd in a positive light and, once you’ve met him, it’s easy to see why,” long-time friend Henry Cuningham (12) said.

The summer before senior year, Griffin opened up a notebook and wrote down a list of goals he wanted to accomplish before the end of senior year, one of them being his closet renovation. 

When he has a goal he is truly passionate about, he will stop at nothing to reach it,” Henry said. “Whether it was streaming consistently or working towards other personal achievements, he works so hard and continues to inspire others including me.”

Besides purely being a positive presence, Griffin takes a step forward and uses influence for good in lifting others up. One of the other goals on his list included a plan to earn enough money to buy doughnut holes for the entire upper school. With lots of careful planning and consultation with upper school community service director Kerry Enzensperger, he was able to make that happen. 

On the eve of the winter finals, Griffin donned a Santa hat and multicolored festive suit, accepted the microphone during school meeting and announced the thousands of doughnut holes waiting outside to be consumed by the student community, a deed he began planning in August. And at the beginning of February, Griffin and his friend Ashley Ma (9) folded a plethora of origami hearts, each one meticulously signed, to hand out to the upper school students. 

“He’s funny and he’s super nice. He really wants to make everybody happy and wants to spread positivity. I think that’s really cool,” close friend Devin Keller (12) said.

Griffin’s philosophy on happiness is simple: just like how it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, Griffin finds it more helpful to proactively choose to be happy over being sad.

“I feel like there’s nothing better to preach [than kindness],” Griffin said. “You only get one life, and life is pretty short. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do something that’s happy and that makes people feel good.”  

It wasn’t always like that, however. That’s not to say that every hero has a dark backstory, but it was only through an epiphany during one of the lowest points of Griffin’s life that brought him to decide to change himself into the “happy person.” At the end of sophomore year, most of Griffin’s closest friends graduated, leaving Griffin feeling empty and alone. This negativity, combined with the pressures of AP exams and finals, seeped into his junior year, and Griffin mostly kept to himself. Things devolved further when, in May of junior year, his appendix failed. With four days to rest at home, Griffin had time to reflect on the past year. 

“It was just a lot of thinking of, ‘Is this the life I want to live or is there something better to be doing for myself and for the other people around me?’ And I came up with being positive,” Griffin said.

But completely changing his outlook and interactions wasn’t easy. After pushing everyone away his junior year, it was difficult for Griffin to put himself out there and do what he wanted to do, which was to befriend as many people as possible. 

“I was always bitter junior year about losing my previous two years of seniors that I hung out with, so throwing myself out there was kind of scary,” Griffin said. “The first couple of weeks of school, I really wanted to say ‘hi’ and introduce myself to everyone, but it’s hard to do that after pushing everyone away the year before. The unknown was scary, but the need for change and wanting to cause this much happiness kind of outweighed how much I was scared by.” 

Venturing out of his comfort zone step by step, Griffin first brought positivity to his workplace, where he had always been joyful teaching the children at the summer camp but had previously regarded his colleagues with indifference. When his colleagues reacted to his new attitude with support and encouragement, Griffin began planning the doughnut holes goal, using all of his saved-up money from his job to purchase the doughnuts himself. 

Then, as senior year began, Griffin radically changed his clothing – after wearing seven different pairs of identical jeans and an assortment of sweatshirts in various shades of gray from freshman year through some of junior year, he decided to “color out.” Wearing extravagant, unique clothing was intimidating at first, as Griffin was afraid of being judged, but after getting compliments from others, his confidence and his determination to spread happiness grew. 

Not only has Griffin’s taste in clothing and interactions with others flipped completely, but he also has had to change his perspectives on everything. 

“I’ve had to reverse my entire mindset from last year. At the beginning, I was very hesitant because we’re all like, ‘Man, I hate this place, I can’t wait to get out.’ I had a countdown on my computer, first day of junior year, of when I was going to get out of there, and I just wanted to get out and leave,” Griffin said. “Reversing [that mindset], at first it felt almost wrong saying the opposite of what I used to say. Right now, I hate my junior self, and my junior self would’ve hated me, because we’re complete opposites and we’d both stand for completely different things.” 

Griffin’s transformation is evident to those close to him. From starting over at the end of junior year and throwing caution to the wind, Griffin has managed to make a friend in every person at Harker. Upper school mathematics teacher Jane Keller, who was one of the people who helped Griffin plan his goal of giving doughnuts, recognizes Griffin’s immense growth in character and personality throughout his time in high school. 

“My first impression of [Griffin] was, ‘What I see is not who you really are.’ Within the first week, I thought, ‘There’s so many more layers to you than what you’re showing on your exterior,’ and over the years, that’s shown to be true,” Keller said. “As he matured, he really has opened himself up to connect with other people to be more empathetic with the greater good and really step up to support his community. He thinks and feels very deeply and that grew as he got older.”

Griffin’s unwavering positivity in the face of the everyday grind of life is part of what makes him such a unique presence at Harker. With infusing the school atmosphere with kindness and joy and being there for anyone and everyone, Griffin hopes to inspire others to do the same. 

“A lot of people know me as the doughnut guy, but my main thing [is] kindness. The doughnuts were just a part of that,” Griffin said. “Sometimes people don’t have other people to reach out to or to get the assistance they need or the distraction they need. I want to be able to off-set the negative people in the world. It’s easier to complain and be negative than be happy all the time, so I’d rather be the happy person that people can go to.”