Most students are eager to leave school on Friday so they can go back to their homes for the weekend – but not at West Side High School.

Every Friday evening after classes are over, hundreds of students continue to flood the hallways of the Newark, New Jersey school.

The students spend their evenings at the school as a means of seeking solace and safety from the violence and gang activity on the streets. Principal Akbar Cook says that since he first launched the after-school Lights On program four years ago, it has had a dramatic impact on the livelihood and wellbeing of the students.

Volunteers and community role models with the Lights On program host dozens of different activities and clubs throughout the evenings. When school is out for the summer, the program is hosted at the school three nights a week. The staffers even serve up free hot meals to keep the youngsters fed during their stay.

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In addition to running Lights On, Principal Cook recently installed a laundry room facility inside of the school so homeless and underprivileged students could have a place to do their laundry.

Since opening the laundry room last year, the principal says that student attendance has improved by 10%.

“I haven’t lost any more kids to gun violence since the start of the school year,” Cook proudly told WABC.

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Photo by Lights On Program

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