Akbar Cook, the principal of West Side High School in Newark , NJ was nervous to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Thursday, but his nerves gave way to joy when Ellen told him that Cheerios donated $50,000 to help the school.
“I admire you for what you’re doing and these kids are lucky to have you,” she told Cook before adding that Cheerios will also stock a food pantry for students to use all year long.
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 already did so many loads of clothes I’m just so happy we removed that barrier,” the principal said.
Cook was the vice principal for the past four years prior to becoming principal.
“I’m so happy to lead kids that look like me, that sound like me,” he said. “I’m from the area so I’m so happy when I got the opportunity to lead them.”
West Side also has a “Lights On” program to provide recreational activities at the school after hours.
“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?”