Oprah Winfrey donated half a million dollars to help keep the “Lights On” at a Newark, New Jersey high school. The initiative, which began with the opening of West Side High School, by Principal Akbar Cook, was designed to keep students off the streets. By providing a safe space, individuals are guaranteed a new hang out spot, the opportunity to play pool or video games, a new location to conduct cheerleading practice, and a music studio to record tracks.
“I haven’t lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year.”
Principal Akbar Cook, April 2019
He says the results can’t and will not be ignored. During the Summer of 2018, Cook installed a laundry room in the school for those students bullied for wearing unclean clothes. Since then, the daily attendance increased by ten percent! Winfrey surprised Cook and almost four hundred of the students last Friday evening, pledging $500,000 to assist in funding the program.
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“So I heard about West Side and all the great things that are happening here. So I’m going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars”.
Winfrey told the students.
“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,” — Principal Cook said.