Every year on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, GEO Reentry Services staff and alumni in New Jersey gather to honor the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. The holiday is celebrated on Dr. King’s birthday, this year on January 20, and linked to a national day of service and community service. This year, the GEO Reentry volunteers worked in conjunction with Jersey Cares’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, meeting at Newark’s West Side High School to perform tasks that support the unique “Lights On” program.
Now in its fourth year, the Lights On program was created by West Side Principal Akbar Cook after three of his students were killed through gun violence. As part of Lights On, the school keeps the school open every Friday from 6 to 11 p.m. as a safe place for kids to use the school gym, play games and eat.
In 2009, Oprah Winfrey donated $500,000 to West Side High School to help expand the “Lights On” program, including installing washers and dryers for kids to do laundry as needed and adding summer hours. In the summer, it’s open three nights a week.
The GEO Reentry team helped stock toiletries and products that are available at the school to help families in need of basic necessities. All felt a sense of reward and satisfaction that honors the message of Dr. King, while helping students with needs that support a positive lifestyle.
“We are extremely proud to give back to the community in honor of Dr. King, and help out for Lights On,” said Arthur Townes, a GEO Reentry Alumni Services Manager. “We chose this location based on Dr. King’s vision to create a better community, and we are glad to give back to others in return for the new start that was provided for our alumni.”