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Homework Brings Peace to Buffalo City Kids

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The epidemic of urban violence, especially among young people is well documented in Buffalo. Nearly every day there is news of another shooting or killing. But efforts to stem the violence are also spreading. WBFO's Joyce Kryszak has more on a program that uses homework to reach at-risk kids.

You can read Joyce Kryszak's story here, and click the "listen" icon above to hear the story now, or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

These kids from the West Side are hanging around, having a good time - doing homework, of all things. Well, o.k., to stay motivated they do play games, and pool and make music too.

Mainly, it's about getting them off the streets and into a safe environment. You see, most of the kids who come to Peace of the City's homework club live with violence outside the building's walls.

15 year-old Robin is no longer even phased by the violence as she talks about one incident last summer.

Sadly, this hardened attitude is typical among the children here who are exposed to the ever-increasing violence in their community.

Mark Cerbone is one of the founders of Peace of the City. The program attempts to offer kids an alternative to the streets. Cerbone said reaching at-risk kids when they are still young is the best hope of keeping them from becoming violent too.

That's why Cerbone said they decided to branch out to try to reach more children. The West Side program, located in a former church at Bird and Hoyt streets, is now also offering homework club on the near East Side of Buffalo.

In September, Peace of the City opened a satellite program at Cornerstone Manor. Lora Warkentin is director of the shelter that serves homeless women and their children. She said the children cometo them traumatized, often by viiolence in their own homes, so they need the structure and peace the program has to offer.

Warkentin said the intervention is crucial because many of these children show early signs of becoming violent themselves.

But Warkentin said it is difficult for Cornerstone Manor, which primarily deals with transitional housing, to find the additional time and resources necessary to deal with these issues.

She said that is why the homework club satellite program is a perfect solution.

Peace of the City staffs and operates the program at Cornerstone Manor. Cerbone from Peace of the City said they try not to re-invent the wheel, sharing resources, facilities and wisdom with other organizations whenever possible.

But Cerbone said the real pay-off is when kids - who used to think violence was normal - begin to turn around.

The program is self-funded through a variety of church and private donations. A benefit will be held Thursday night, in part, to help pay for the to satellite program at Cornerstone Manor.

The dinner and concert will feature gospel singer Randy Stonehill - and, of course, the Peace of the City children's choir. The event begins at 6:00 PM Thursday at the Buffalo Christian Center.