Oprah surprises NJ students with $500K donation, pizza party

Oprah Winfrey at West Side High School in Newark, NJ

Former daytime talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey donated $500,000 to a Newark high school after she heard of its after-school program.

In a surprise appearance Friday, Winfrey threw a pizza party for students at West Side High School and gave them a $50 ShopRite gift card each.

Oprah said she was inspired by West Side’s “Lights On” program that provides recreational activities at the school after hours every Friday.

“I thought what could I do?” Oprah told the students. “So I’m going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars.”

Celebrities have taken notice of West Side and Principal Akbar Cook during the past year. Ellen DeGeneres brought Cook on her show in September and gave him $50,000. 

Cook, in his first year as principal, had five washers and driers added to the Newark school for students to use. Officials found that too many students were chronically absent, and a lack of clean clothes contributed. Kids would be bullied because of their dirty clothes, Cook said.

“We are really laying the foundation for what a community school looks like,” Cook said, “and what better way to change the world than a school?”

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