Oprah helps an inner-city high school teacher get prom dresses for students, all thanks to Twitter
A high school English teacher taught her students a lesson they won't soon forget -- about the power of social media.
Every year, Cen'Cere Cooks -- who teaches high-risk, inner-city students at SEA Charter School in South Central Los Angeles -- helps the girls in her class get prom dresses for the big night, often paying for the gowns out of her own pocket. When donations were slow this year, she decided she needed a new approach. At the suggestion of a student, she went on Twitter to solicit dress donations from celebrities. Amazingly, the last person she asked, but the first one to respond, was none other than Oprah Winfrey.
Although Oprah has 12 million Twitter followers and a steady stream of mentions flowing in all day, every day, something about the 31-year-old teacher's request caught her eye. "Initially she responded 'no' because she just did a dress giveaway, but then she tweeted, 'Let me see what I can do,'" Cooks tells Yahoo! TV. "I was amazed: Oprah's going to see what she can do?! That was good enough. But then she put me in contact with her assistant and we exchanged emails. The assistant wanted to know more about the school, the kids, and why I have this passion for them." Two days later, "I was in class and my phone started beeping, beeping. The kids said, 'Maybe Oprah is tweeting you again' -- and she was. She said her friends at Macy's would be willing to help us."
The process of getting her students dresses was far better than the teacher could have imagined. Initially, Cooks -- who worked with Oprah's production company Harpo and Macy's -- was going to pick up the dresses for her students, but a better idea blossomed. "I was like, 'That's exciting, but it would be better if kids could do it,'" Cooks says. After asking if she could bring along five of the 25 students, they came back with a better suggestion. "They said we could do better than that -- we'll have all the girls go. They chartered us a bus. They bought breakfast and lunch for the kids. There was a styling team to help pull dresses. They wouldn't let any girl go out without a dress. We all worked together until every girl walked out of the store with a dress. It was pretty amazing."