ROCKFORD (WREX) – Lester Wright spent much of his 20’s in and out of prison.
He has been out since June of 2018 and he is putting all of his effort towards keeping the kids in our community away from the same side of the streets he was raised on.
“The gang banging and drug dealing we are trying to keep them away from that so we tell them what we went through and how we went through it,” said Lester Wright.
Lester started The Wright Way back in January.
It’s a program meant to help give kids an outlet for fun after school, but also to help teach them real world skills.
It started with Lester bouncing around to different parks or the actual homes of the kids he was trying to help.
Then his mom Janene got involved, helping them secure a spot at the Salvation Army Community Center on Kilburn Avenue.
“I never thought she’d get involved as hard as she was but she got involved harder than anybody,” said Wright.
Janene is no stranger to involvement, with over 20 year experience in community outreach.
“We do mentoring with them. We do vision boards. I teach an etiquette class once a week to them,” said Janene Stephenson.
Janene enjoys being able to teach the kids, but also teach his son how to be a role model for them.
“It’s just so amazing to see my son reaching out into the community like he does.”
Organizers say an average of 50 kids show up on a given night for the program, but they’ve had over 100 kids show up on multiple occasions.
The kids find a level of comfort being a part of The Wright Way program.
“When you come here, you can talk about what’s wrong with you or what’s wrong in your household,” said Jakhi Graves
“We learn to help people when they’re down. I feel like it’s very helpful for kids to be here because it’s a fun place to be at,” said Nallya King.
The support he gets from the kids is all Wright needs to know he’s doing good for the community.
“Just to look at the smiles on the kids faces. That’s all we really want, and to keep them off the streets,” said Wright.
“If we can keep them off the streets and keep them happy. I feel like we’re winning.”
The Wright Way program runs from 5-9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Salvation Army Community Center at 210 N Kilburn Ave in Rockford.