When Oprah Winfrey saw Newark principal Akbar Cook on a CBS News Story featuring their “Lights On” program, she knew she wanted to do something to help, so she came to Newark, treated the Newark High School students to a pizza party then donated half a million dollars!
Cook became principal just 10 short months ago, but he has already improved the Newark school system in huge ways by implementing real solutions to big problems that students face. He started by bringing in washer and dryer units for student use after he saw the staggering number of kids who skipped school because they didn’t have clean clothes, resulting in ruthless bullying from other students. After that program was a success, he started Lights On to combat gun violence outside of school- and, it too worked.
During the school year, the Lights On program allows students to come after school from six to 11 and enjoy the use of the gym and other recreational activities instead of being on the streets. During the summer, Lights On allows the school to be open 3 nights a week. Before Lights On, NHS had lost three students in a short time to gun violence, but since the program has been implemented, that number has stayed there. When Oprah heard of this amazing program created by the new principal, she reached out and surprised the students and Principal Cook with a $500,000 donation. “I’m gonna leave here tonight,” she told the crowd of students and faculty “and leave you with half a million dollars!”
Principal Cook plans to use this money to give his students even wider resources from educational programs to work programs, teaching kids how to get a job, and life skills to use in the real world. He understands that education is essential, but that a lot of students just can’t go to college, they have families to support, no financial resources, or aren’t expected too, and he respects that. “If I can give them some educational resources and show them some life skills so they can be more employable to employers,” Cook said. “Anything I can [do] to make them successful.”