Oprah surprises New Jersey principal, students with $500K donation

NEWARK, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Oprah Winfrey surprised a high school principal in Newark that is making a huge difference in his community.

Winfrey surprised West Side High School's Principal Akbar Cook on Friday night and donated half a million dollars to help keep his Lights On program running.

The program is designed to keep students off the street by giving them a safe place to hang out on Friday nights. Until 11 p.m. each Friday, kids can shoot pool, play video games, hit the hardwood, practice cheers or even lay down tracks in a recording studio.

"I haven't lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year," Principal Akbar Cook said in April.

He says the results can't be ignored.

Cook also made headlines last summer when he installed a laundry room after his students were bullied because of dirty clothes which resulted in chronic absenteeism.

He says there has been a 10 percent increase in daily attendance since he opened the laundry room.

Akbar's Lights On program will also run three nights a week in the summer.
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.