Oprah Winfrey has put a smile on the faces of students at a New Jersey high school, as well as their principal this weekend.
West Side High School's principle Akbar Cook has gone viral a few times thanks to the various initiatives he has implemented at the Newark high school. Last year, Cook made headlines when he created a laundry room to combat the bullying some students faced for wearing dirty clothes to school. "I think we really put the microscope on basic needs of kids," Cook told CBS. "Everyone wants the high test scores, everyone wants them to perform well. But if the kid doesn't feel confidence in just coming to school, being that person we know they can be, then what are we doing."
Cook went viral again when he created the program Lights On. With Lights On, Cook opens the doors to the school from 6-10 pm three times a week to give students a safe space to hang out and have fun. Throughout his first year as West Side High School's principle, he experienced the deaths of two students which motivated him to begin the initiative. After appearing on "The Ellen Show," and in many publications across the country, he's caught the eye of Oprah who made a substantial donation after a surprise visit to the school on Friday (May 17).
According to ABC 7, the entertainment mogul donated $500,000 to the program.
"When I saw what Principal Akbar Cook was doing for his students at West Side High School in Newark, NJ, I had to come see what it was all about and share some delicious O, That's Good pizza," Oprah said in a Facebook post. On top of the donation, Winfrey gave students $50 gift cards, bought pizza and played games with students throughout the evening.
Cook said the Lights On has played a significant role in keeping kids away from the deadly violence that has taken over Newark. "I haven't lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year," he said.
When I saw what Principal Akbar Cook was doing for his students at West Side High School in Newark, NJ, I had to come...