There are a lot of organizations in York City that are working hard to try to keep kids off the streets, particularly because there are so many shootings in the city, and so much of the gun violence is gang-related.

So far this year, the city has experienced close to 100 shootings, the most recent of which resulted in the fatality of a William Penn Senior High School student and football player, 18-year-old Eugene Davis Hillian IV. The St. Matthew Youth Center, "The Matts," has been working for nearly 50 years to provide a space where students can feel safe and free to be kids.

Located at 839 West Market St., the Matts just recently opened up again for the season, which runs from mid-September to the end of May. The center is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Fridays from 7 to 10 p.m.

Kids are free to come and just hang out. They can play basketball, dodge ball or volleyball in the gym or they can head downstairs to the game room, which is filled with free arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man or racing games. There's another game room that has two TVs, a Wii system, a Play Station 3 System and some pool tables.

LaQuinn Thompson, the new director of the youth center as of this year, explained that his goal and the number one goal of the center is to provide a safe space for the youth in the area.

"It's okay to enjoy being young," Thompson explained. "I think right now they don't have the opportunity to do that because their home life is stressful and they have to grow up very, very fast. We're trying to provide them that time being comfortable as a youth."

It's $5 for a membership to the youth center for the year, but sponsorships are available for student's that aren't able to pay that. Once a month kid's from the community are invited to Club Nite, which is announced on the center's Facebook page. On Club Nite the center will open a little earlier for youth to come in, enjoy some dinner and a more planned activity, like a bible study or a get-to-know-you game.

Currently there are over 200 student's registered for The Matts between 6th- and 8th-grade, but Thompson is hoping to continue to expand the program in the future to younger students as well. Students interested in partaking in the youth center are encouraged to call St. Matthews Youth Center at 845-2721.

"Right now life can be stressful to the youth when they go home from the youth center," Thompson said. "We’re here to make sure they have peace in their life that they don’t have at home."

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