Newark, NJ — West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, has been receiving praises for its unique program that keeps students away from violence and gang activities in the streets. Their Lights On program, which started four years ago, allows students to spend their Friday nights at school to keep them out of trouble.Principal Akbar Cook thought of the idea in hopes to eliminate or at least lessen the number of young people who get involved in violence and other trouble out in the streets.
“I haven’t lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year,” Principal Cook told ABC 7.
Students who stay at the school on Friday nights after classes are over, get to enjoy several activities prepared by volunteers. They can play video games and board games, practice dances and cheers, listen to music, or even produce some new beats in the recording studio. The program is open for everyone.
Free hot meals are also provided to the students during their stay. Even on summer breaks, the school hosts the program three nights a week. The community and school alumni donate to make the program possible.
Moreover, Principal Cook opened a laundry room facility inside the school last year so homeless and underprivileged students can wash their clothes. Cook said the daily attendance increased to 10 percent ever since it was launched.
Students definitely found the program not only beneficial for them but also enjoyable.
“It’s fun, safe too. It’s better than being out on the streets,” one student said.
“On the street it’s dangerous, people get killed, you could be killed walking home, gunshots everywhere,” another student said.