Sheriff pumps up school weight room


Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson


Staff Writer

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A local law enforcement agency stepped up to help an area high school in serious need of upgraded athletic equipment. 

The Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office donated several pieces of weight room and fitness equipment to SouthWest Edgecombe High School. Sheriff Clee Atkinson said the school received about 12 to 15 pieces of used equipment that is still in great shape. Atkinson was able to gather the equipment from people he has built relationships with from across North Carolina.

Dr. Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, said the Sheriff’s Office is one of the school district’s most important partners.

“We’re extremely grateful for the donation of fitness equipment for SouthWest High School,” Bridges said. “This will give our students access to state-of-the-art equipment in the weight room. Sheriff Atkinson and his department have been instrumental in our school receiving this amazing gift.”

SouthWest Edgecombe football coach Jonathan Cobb said the last time any new or updated equipment was purchased for the school’s weight room was 31 years ago in memory of a former SouthWest player. 

Cobb said the weight room had consisted of a few benches and squat racks for football players and other students to use.

“To get by, we were doing a lot of body weight exercises, which involve doing sit-ups, push-ups, body squats and doing things to supplement what we didn’t have,” he said. “With us being limited, we were being creative and trying to find ways to keep the kids pumped up. We’ve preached for some time it don’t matter what it looks like — it matters how hard you work.”

Cobb said the Sheriff’s Office was holding a crisis training event at the school when Atkinson was told by his deputies about the weight room, which led him to go in there — where he noticed the dated equipment. Atkinson took the initiative to make sure the school’s weight room would receive better equipment.

“Nothing had been done to the weight room since 1987,” Cobb said. “Everything was pretty outdated and had fallen apart. I had put a small group of people together to talk about it and brainstorm ways to raise some money and replace the equipment. ... Sheriff Atkinson saw a need and nobody asked him. He jumped right on it — and the next thing I know, we’ve got three truckloads of equipment at the school.”

Cobb said the weight room equipment is currently in storage as the school is redoing and repainting the weight room while also looking to generate enough funds to put in a new floor. He said the plan is to hopefully have things completed in the next four or five weeks and then put the equipment in. 

Cobb added the SouthWest football players aren’t the only beneficiaries of the new equipment.

“The kids are excited, but this isn’t just about football,” Cobb said. “We have strength and conditioning and weightifting classes as well as every sport spends time in there, from football and basketball all the way to girls’ softball. With more than 800 students, there might be 500 to 600 students that use that weight room, which is more than half the school’s population. We’re 1,000 percent better right now because of the Sheriff’s Office ... they really saved our weight room program.”