Words by Smiley Team
Summer vacation is in full swing – and with that, kids are back home. To occupy their time, many families send them to summer camps, family activities, or even full-blown vacations.
Not every family can afford that though so often, kids are left unsupervised and to their own devices. The fear is that these kids will turn to mischief and even gangs.
To alleviate that fear, Los Angeles has started a program called Summer Night Lights, which keeps local parks and recreation open much later than normal, usually around 11pm. The parks that are part of the program also feature a range of free "entertainment, recreation, education, and artistic activities that take place during peak gang activity hours in the summer.”
The program was started in 2008 by The Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, and eight parks took part. Today, more than 32 parks are a part of the program.
“In 20 of the 32 Summer Night Lights locations last year, even as crime ticked up around the city, it stayed the same or even decreased in those parks,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in 2016.
As part of the program, each park hosts a handful of different activities including sports tournaments in basketball and baseball, tug of war, and manicures, among other things. Over 10,000 people have taken part in the sports leagues. All activities are free and they also provide free food to people who come in.
In 2018 alone, over 695,000 people took part in the Summer Night Lights programs and over 430,000 free meals were served.
“We're really trying to make a difference and bring purpose to a beautiful city that at times is delicate and we have to endure difficult moments…. But we're here and we're committed and we're proud to be a part of all of this,” LAPD Capt. Cory Palk said.
The program even offers things like HIV testing, and even hires and trains at-risk youth.
DONATE: Check out Big Brothers and Big Sisters. They’re another organization focused on supporting at-risk youth.
VOLUNTEER: Big Brothers and Big Sisters has volunteering opportunities – find out more.