Oprah Winfrey surprised a group of students at West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey last Friday night with a pizza party and a $500,000 donation to the school’s Light’s On program.
The Lights On after-school program was created by principle Akbar Cook, who aims to create a safe and creative space for his students on Friday nights during the school year. Cook previously made headlines for installing washing machines at the school to ensure students had clean clothes.
With the Light’s On program, Principal Cook and his family personally prepare dinner for the program’s 300 students each week, PEOPLE reports. But this past Friday, Winfrey hosted a pizza party with her line of “O, That’s Good” frozen pizzas with Kraft Heinz.
The media mogul and Kraft Heinz donated $50 ShopRite gift cards to the hundreds of kids in attendance before she donated a check for $500,000 to support the program, the report states.
“I’m gonna leave here tonight, and leave you with half a million dollars!” she announced to a crowd full of cheers.
Principal Cook says the donation will go towards “restorative” programs, designed to curb gun violence in the area.
Cook launched the program four years ago after three students at the high school died from gun violence, but Cook told CBS that since then, “we haven’t lost any more kids.”
“You have to build trust,” he added. “When we first started off, it was just basketball and jump rope. … We realized that we needed to do more things for the young ladies, and once we started doing that, the guys came!”
Cook says Winfrey’s generous donation will help expand the program’s educational resources.
“I still need to do more just restorative things for the kids – yes, it’s recreational, but if I can give them some educational resources and show them some life skills so they can be more employable to employers, anything I can [do] to make them successful.”