NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – While some kids might be getting into trouble on a Saturday night, others are taking part in a program that offers free soccer, basketball, and dance classes.
It’s called “Saturday Night Lights” and it’s now expanding.
At a community center in East Harlem, teens are honing their soccer skills and learning about life.
“They’ve all really supported me and helped me become the person I am,” Yasmine Sanchez said.
The 18-year-old participates in the youth violence prevention program that unlocks gyms and rec centers on Saturdays.
“If I’m going through something bad in my life or just a negative period in my life, I can talk to them, and they’ll make it better,” Yusuf Abdel Megid said.
Organizers say the program’s helped around 12,000 kids over the last eight years and now they’re expanding it beyond Manhattan to all five boroughs.
The program is funded by money seized in legal action by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office against big banks.
“It’s turning criminal dollars into community activity and program development. What could be a better statement than to say to those who are committing crime, we’re going to take what you’ve done and we’re going to make it positive for our neighborhood,” Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance
Saturday Night Lights is currently being offered at 20 gymnasiums across the city, but Manhattan’s D.A. says his goal is to expand it to 100 sites.
One goal is to bridge a relationship between the community and law enforcement.
“In many of these communities they feel that law enforcement officials are not their friends, and I think to break down those barriers is essential,” David Chang from the Queens District Attorney’s Office said.
As for Yasmine she’s studying biotechnology in college after winning a $10,000 scholarship.
“The teachers I’ve had in school really pushed me because they saw the kind of kid I was, and they wanted to help me.”