Oprah Makes Surprise Donation of $500,000 to West Side High School in Newark Led By Akbar Cook
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey surprised students at West Side High School in Newark, N.J. on Friday with a visit, and to support a program that’s changing lives.
“Blessed. Oprah gave us $500,000 dollars for ‘Lights On,'” Principal Akbar Cook posted on Instagram with photos.
Cook is dedicated to supporting his nearly 400 students in every possible way. The “Lights On” program offers teens the opportunity to stay after school until 11 p.m. each Friday, providing a safe place to have fun. Students participate in activities including playing video games, basketball, shooting pool, and using the recording studio.
“I haven’t lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year,” Cook said in April.
Oprah is encouraging the students “to keep doing what they’re doing.”
“I heard about the ‘Lights On’ program, that’s making not just strides but showing other people how to do it right, by providing an opportunity and a place for you to be,” she said to the West Side High School students. “So listen up, I want this program to continue. I was watching this on ‘CBS Evening News’ … I saw what your great Principal is doing … and I thought, ‘What can I do?’
“So I’m going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars.”
The crowd erupted in cheers.
In the summer, Cook’s “Lights On” program will also run three nights a week.
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Last summer, Cook decided to install a laundry room in the school because kids were being bullied for wearing dirty clothes, and as a result, began skipping school. Since he opened the laundry room, there has been a 10 percent increase in daily attendance.