SOUTH LOS ANGELES - Summer Night Lights brings out kids of all ages. It’s a tradition for many, even for the counselors, like Natasha Johnson, who returned for another year to be a mentor for the youth in her community.
"Some kids come to me and say, 'Miss, I can’t read,' and I’ll be like, 'OK, I’m here to help you learn,'" said Johnson.
She's a Youth Squad Leader for Summer Night Lights, a summer job she started last year after she saw an ad online. She knew she had to come back this summer because she loved it so much.
"It opened my eyes up more to help the community. I see the community needs help. It’s good to be here to be a mentor or counselor for them," said Johnson.
Summer Night Lights is a program that takes place across 32 parks around the city. It's an extension of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s GRYD Program, which focuses on reducing gang violence. SNL offers free games, food, activities, and more, all aimed at keeping kids busy during the summer months.
"It helps us stay out of trouble, keeps us out of trouble, and keeps the parents and kids engaged and is an outreach program to help us grow," said Johnson.
Not only is it beneficial for the kids and adults who come every Wednesday to Saturday, it is also helpful for the counselors and other workers like Johnson. It gives them a stable way to make money and build toward their goals. She wants to be a social worker and feels she is learning valuable skills working at SNL.
Marie Thomas, the cluster coordinator for SNL, feels the same way.
"It empowers me. It makes me feel good every day to be part of something so magnificent," said Thomas.
She knows she is doing her part to reduce violence and crime through fun activities.
She said, "They found with statistics and ratings that crime is at an all-time high in the summer time and with this program it has been decreased."
According to SNL, in 2018, 31 of the 32 sites saw crime reduced or saw no change in crime compared to 2017.
Summer Night Lights is open to all who want to have a fun and free day at the park.
To find a park near you, click here.