“I haven’t lost anymore kids to gun violence since the start of the school year,” Cook said.
Students can “shoot pool, play video games, hit the hardwood, practice cheers or even lay down tracks in a recording studio,” the television station reports. A website for the program revealed there are also “fashion and design workshops, henna tattoos and a cosmetology room” for female students.
Founded in 2016, Lights On is made possible by donations from the community and the school’s alumni.
Though most students would hate being in school on a Friday night, West Side High students enjoy the opportunities offered through Lights On.
“I just realized that if I come here, I’ll see friendly faces,” one student said. Another said, “It’s fun, safe too. It’s better than being out on the streets.”
It seems that not just current students are impressed. Nadia Camacho, a West Side class of 2008 graduate said, “If it was around back then, I think that we wouldn’t have lost so many of my classmates. if we had a class reunion right now a lot of my classmates wouldn’t be here due to gun violence.”
And when the school year ends, the program continues three nights a week.
Lights On isn’t Principal Cook’s first attempt at improving the lives of his students.
Last summer, he installed a free laundry room inside the high school after “his students were bullied because of dirty clothes, which resulted in chronic absenteeism.” According to Cook, there’s been a 10 percent increase in daily attendance since the laundry room was opened.
Click here for more information on West Side High School’s Lights On program.
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Jasmine Washington is a beauty-obsessed journalist by day and a trap music connoisseur by night. A lifelong New Yorker, she got her start as an intern at the now-defunct Juicy Magazine. Jasmine joined the EBONY.com team as a writer, penning daily stories on all things Black culture and entertainment.