Principal installs laundry room for kids who are bullied for wearing dirty clothes to school

A high school principal finds a way to keep his students in school and spare them from humiliation and his good deed doesn't go unnoticed.  Ellen DeGeneres heard about his viral story and surprised him with a generous gift. 

A good deed goes a long way they say and a high school principal realized this first hand.

Akbar Cook is a principal of West Side High School in Newark who caught the attention of television host Ellen DeGeneres for his act of compassion for his students. Cook had washing machines installed in his school to spare some of his students the embarrassment of going to school in dirty clothes and getting bullied because their families couldn’t afford to wash them. 

Cook got the idea two years ago when he noticed some of his students were skipping school because their clothes were stained and unclean. Those who did show up for school with dirty clothes were humiliated by bullies who would go as far as taking pictures of them and posting them on social media.  

In an effort to resolve the problem, Cook coordinated with the advisory council of the MCJ Amelior Foundation which assists West Side with its academic and enrichment programs. One of its members, the PSEG Foundation, donated $20,000 for the purchase of five washing machines and five dryers. 

Cook’s story, though he was hesitant to make it about him, reached Ellen DeGeneres who invited him to guest in her show. According to the talk show host, 

“When I found out about a high school principal from Newark, New Jersey who is doing incredible things to keep his students in school, I knew I wanted to have him on the show."

And to reward Cook for his act of kindness, DeGeneres gifted him with a $50,000 check as part of her “One Million Acts of Good” partnership with Cheerios. 

Cook was definitely surprised with the donation and was even more surprised to learn that Cheerios added a one year supply of food for the school’s pantry for West Side’s program, “Lights On." The program, also Cook’s idea, helps keep kids off the streets at night. It was launched three years ago to provide a safe place for kids to stay from 6 pm to 11 pm.  

Despite all the attention coming his way, Cook maintains it’s really more about the students and not him.

"If you want to talk about me, I'm going to feel uncomfortable. If you want to keep talking about my babies, you got it."

Cook also told DeGeneres he prefers to be considered as his students’ second father who they can rely on.

“I want them to know that love. They know I’m there. I’m never leaving their side.’’

Cook is one of the many teachers DeGeneres has paid tribute to in her show. She also recently lauded a kindergarten teacher, Sonya Romero, for going above and beyond her duties and opening her home to her students. When two of them were to be taken by child protective services, Romero took them in for 48 hours and cared for them in her home. Six months later, she became their legal foster mom. Her amazing traits as a teacher didn’t go unnoticed. Her students prepared a video for her, speaking about their gratitude and appreciation. DeGeneres likewise made sure she got all the attention when she was invited to guest in the popular host’s show.   

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