PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Lights On, Peoria is a Peoria Public Schools weekend after-school program, focusing on giving students at Peoria High, and Manual Academy, an escape.
“We really wanna give our students someplace they can come, that they can feel like they don’t have to be on the street, they don’t have to just stay at home,” said Tagwana Webster with Lights On, Peoria.
Webster said it’s all about creating a safe space for the teens to not only participate in fun activities but also be surrounded by caring adults.
“As you know, right now the homicide rates are up, we are having so many violent acts being committed in our cities,” said Webster.
She added, the program is helping by exposing the teens to various activities in the area.
“If you talk to the kids they’re saying, ‘oh it’s so boring, there’s nothing to do in Peoria,’ there’s actually a lot, there’s so many opportunities, but they don’t know about them,” said Webster.
One community partner working with Lights On, Peoria, ART Inc., is a Peoria nonprofit working to nurture the community through arts and education.
Leaders with ART Inc. recently set up an event with Lights On, Peoria, letting the students create a painting.
“A lot of the kids when they first came in, and they saw the room, and they were like ‘this is for us,’ I really knew that we were doing something super important,” said Chief Demario Boone, Director of School Safety for Peoria Public Schools.
Chief Boone believes Light’s On, Peoria can keep students focused on their future.
“It’s just to give them other outlets because it’s been proven those other outlets help kids be successful in the long run,” said Chief Boone.
Nyk Sutter-Downs, Program Director with ART Inc. said they were happy to be an outlet for the students to use.
“If we are able as an organization to partner with local community schools and educational organizations to, you know, even if we save one person, or make a difference in one child’s life, then we’re doing our job,” said Sutter-Downs.
Jurnee Dunigan-Neal, a Sophomore at Manual Academy, said Light’s On, Peoria has helped her open up.
“When I first came here, I was so shy, and everyone is so welcoming, they bring you in, and they try to get you out of your shell, especially the people that know you, and it’s just so exciting to be here, it’s really fun,” said Dunigan-Neal.
While the after-school program is a big focus, Webster said Light’s On, Peoria offers resources to students during the week as well.
“We have tutors in the schools that will help any student that needs more academic help, we also have career coaches if students need to find jobs, we find them jobs, we also take them on field trips, we just took them to Harris-Stowe State University last month,” said Webster.
Webster said Peoria High students looking to get involved can contact Coach Dixon or Destiny Young, while Manual Academy students can contact Officer Chakira Tubbs, or Charmane Russell.