Oprah Winfrey knows how to throw a mean pizza party.
The media mogul surprised a group of students at West Side High School in Newark on Friday night with dozens of pizza pies, and then proceeded to donate $500,000 to their Light’s On after-school program.
The program was created by the school’s new principal, Akbar Cook, who aimed to create a safe place for his students on Friday nights during the school year. Winfrey first heard about Cook through a CBS News story, a representative for Winfrey tells PEOPLE, after he installed washing machines at the school to ensure students had clean clothes.
With the Light’s On program, on a typical Friday night, Principal Cook and his family personally cook dinner for the program’s 300 students each week.
But this past Friday, Winfrey gave them a night off, and hosted the party with her line of “O, That’s Good” frozen pizzas with Kraft Heinz.
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The 65-year-old talk show host and Kraft Heinz donated $50 ShopRite gift cards to the 300 kids in attendance before she personally wrote a check for $500,000 to support the program.
“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. The after-school program began after three students at the high school died from gun violence, but Cook told CBS that since it began four years ago, “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!”
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With Winfrey’s donation, Principal Cook plans on expanding the programs role beyond simply recreational activities, citing educational resources to give students life skills to use in the workforce.
“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.”
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