Oprah Donates $500,000 to New Jersey High School After-School Program
The mogul surprised the principal and students of West Side High School with the donation last week.
Media mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey surprised a school in New Jersey with a $500,000 on May 17.
The donation to the West Side High School in Newark will support the Lights On program, started by principal Akbar Cook in 2016 after three students were killed by gun violence, CBS reported.
"So I heard about West Side and all the great things that are happening here," Winfrey said during her visit. "So I'm going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars.”
The Lights On initiative provides a safe space for students to gather on Friday nights from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. During this time, the students can play games and use the gym for sports and creative expression, and are provided with warm meals, CBS reported. In the summer, the program is extended to three nights a week.
The Lights On program is just one of the initiatives Cook has implemented to help West Side High School students.
After discovering that some students were missing class because they were being bullied for coming to school in dirty clothes, he built a laundry room for students to use, according to CBS. The room has five commercial washing machines and dryers, as well as detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
"I think we really put the microscope on basic needs of kids. 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 told CBS in March.
Cook was also featured on tv show Ellen in early March because of his efforts and received a $50,000 check from Cheerios, through a partnership with talk show host Ellen Degeneres, as part of her “One Million Acts of Good” campaign, according to NJ.com.
Cook told CBS that he hopes to use Winfrey’s donation to expand the program to provide educational resources to students and teach them skills that will contribute to their success as employees in the future.
"The lesson is: every day there's a story that you can do something about," Winfrey told CBS after the school visit. "Today I actually did something.”