New program aims to occupy children, steer them away from gun violence

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FLINT (WJRT) (10/9/2019) - The New Standard Academy in Flint is offering a new Friday night program aimed at giving children something constructive to do.

The New Standard Academy is offering a new Friday evening program designed to give kids a positive activity and hopefully keep them away from gun violence.

Friday Night Lit was created after the death of 7-year-old Zaniyah Burns a year ago. She was a second grader at The New Standard Academy when she was shot to death in her living room.

The school hopes the new program helps protect their students from other senseless gun violence. From 6 to 9 p.m. each Friday, kids come back to school to play games, learn to cook and other fun activities.

"It was kind of a no-brainer, like a why not thing, you know," said Director of School Culture Dolph Ireland. "Especially with the level of crime in the city, I wanted to make sure there was somewhere I know where our kids could come, be safe, have a great time and then also learn something in the process."

The program started a few weeks ago. Ireland said so far they're averaging about 110 kids every Friday.

They ask that parents drop off their students off, but The New Standard Academy provides a bus home right to their door. They currently have movies, a pool table, play station consoles, an open gym and dinner for the kids.

Ireland said the music teacher and a local theater group have also come in to help out. Each week, he wants to add on different activities, including teaching the kids how to cook.

Ireland has also noticed an increased respect from the kids, acknowledging they're spending their time after hours creating this safe haven for them.

"It's part of adolescence to get into things, so when you don't have anything positive to get into, you get into bad," he said. "So the main focus of this or one of the main focuses of this is putting them in a position to be able to you know get into good, so to speak."

Ireland says the community is more than welcome to help support their efforts. Right now, he's looking around for skates to create a skating rink for the kids.

In the coming months, he's hopeful they'll be able to open the program up to more than just their students.