WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — The sweets sounds of success didn’t come easy for Tyrell Jackson-Streets.
This fall, he’ll head to Western Michigan University as a freshman, but those plans weren’t always in the cards.
“I had a lot of friends that tried to bring me along to their bad influences. But I actually tried to help them… like, you don’t have to do this. There’s a lot of things you can do other than this,” Jackson-Streets said. “I really don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t come to New City Kids.”
New City Kids is an after-school program that uses music to give an at-risk kids from the northwest side of Grand Rapids a constructive way to use their time starting as early as first grade.
These days, music provides more than an artistic outlet for Jackson-Streets, a recent Union High School grad, also a mentor with New City Kids.
“Basically I’m a role model for the kids and also the teens that work at New City Kids,” he said.
Most of the New City Kids never picked up an instrument before joining the program. But with the help of mentors, they learn to play. By the time they reach ninth grade, many become tutors and mentors to the younger students.
“They would be more likely to join gang activities and stuff like that if we didn’t have this after-school center called New City Kids,” Jackson-Streets said.
The program boasts that 99% of its graduates go on to college. Most of the remaining 1% enter trade schools or the military.
“Zero percent of our alumni or any of our teens have been incarcerated. Yeah, we’re just proud of our teens,” Maurice Townsend, NCK’s music director, said.
It costs New City Kids about $5,500 to mentor a child.
The group was recently able to buy the building on Alpine Avenue NW at 11th Street that it has called home for the last five years. It will share space with the former owner, City View Church. But the building needs work: a new boiler, electrical system and roof.
So with some help from WOOD TV’s Maranda, the kids serenaded customers outside the MOD Pizza shop on Alpine Wednesday to raise funds.
Donations can also be made online.
More than an after-school program, Jackson-Streets calls New City Kids an investment in the future.
“These are our future doctors, future lawyers and future police officers. All of that,” Jackson-Streets said. “And we’ve got to invest in them, make sure they grow up right.”