Oprah Winfrey speaks onstage at the Statue Of Liberty Museum Opening Celebration on May 15, 2019 at Ellis Island in New York City.
Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Statue Of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

It’s not easy being a billionaire gift-giver after Robert F. Smith dropped about $40 million on Morehouse’s Class of 2019, but Oprah’s been out here doing her thing. Students at West Side High School in Newark, N.J., were shocked on Friday when Oprah Winfrey announced a $500,000 donation to their school.

According to CBS New York, Oprah—the billionairess media mogul and philanthropist—saw a CBS News report about the school’s Principal Akbar Cook who went above-and-beyond to keep students off the streets, out of trouble, and fed. He also found a way to help stop bullying.

Cook’s “Lights On” after-school program keeps the school open from 6 p.m. through at least 11 p.m. on Fridays during the school year and three nights a week during summers. Students use the gym, play games together, dance, hang out, and more. Free meals are even donated by local charities. When Cook was told that some kids were being bullied for wearing dirty clothes; he installed washing machines at the school for students to use during “Lights On.”

Advertisement

“I saw what your great principal is doing,” Winfrey told students and staff during her speech at the school’s gymnasium. “And I thought, what can I do?”

“So I’m going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars,” she continued, as the crowd burst into cheers and applause.

Advertisement

According to CBS, Winfrey also gave each student a $50 gift card for the grocery store chain ShopRite, and hosted an all-school pizza party with her “O, That’s Good!” line of pizza.

Advertisement

Winfrey praised Cook’s dedication to his community and West Side students for “moving in the right direction,” and explained that her gift was meant to provide the program with the resources to continue doing great work.

“My kids feel like they don’t have anyone,” Cook told Winfrey, according to the Star-Ledger. “And you just took time out of your busy schedule to show me and my babies love. I’m floored. I’m truly humbled.”

Advertisement