PEORIA, Ill. — Peoria Public Schools was awarded what they call a competitive grant called, “Lights on Peoria” in the amount of $3.4 million.
School leaders said it can improve the lives of the district’s most vulnerable students.
The federal grant will support high school students residing in Peoria’s Qualified Opportunity Zones. These zones are defined as economically distressed areas, which include Manual Academy and Peoria High School. Richwoods High School will also receive some funding.
The purpose of the Lights On, Peoria grant is to ensure a safe and supportive school climate.
The program Lights On, started at a school in Newark, New Jersey. It gained national attention and received a $500,000 donation from Oprah Winfrey and $100,00 from Ellen DeGeneres.
Lights On provided kids with a safe place to play and learn new skills after school and on the weekends.
The school created a space for children to practice cosmetology, play sports and games amongst other things.
School leaders also tended to the students’ personal needs. The building houses a laundry room as well as a store where kids can purchase toiletries.
Peoria community leaders intend to make this program their own. The tentative start date is Feb. 7 and will be held on Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“I think kids will respond great to it,” Chief Demario Boone for Peoria Public Schools Safety said. “We got great kids in the community we just have to be adults and give them something to do.”
Boone said he hopes this program will keep kids out of trouble.
“Preventing a lot of youth violence from out in the street when you don’t have anything to do you have idle hands I mean you get into mischief and we want to try to give them something positive to do,” he said.
Boone said to fulfill the vision of the program volunteers and donations are needed. He is specifically looking for guest speakers and people who can teach the students new skills.
The program will also provide a hot meal each night.