Mola Lenghi, NBC 5 Arlington Reporter
North Davis Church of Christ has stepped in to help Arlington's Lamar High School curb after-school violence by offering an after-school program where students have a place to hang out.
A North Arlington church is offering an after-school program to cut down on problems at a Walgreens where hundreds of students congregate.
About 100 to 200 of Lamar High School's nearly 3,000 students migrate to the nearby store when the final bell of the day rings.
"Many of them hanging out waiting for their parent to get off of work at five," Lamar Principal Larry Harmon said.
Fights and drug deals break out in the parking lot. Richie Sherrod, who oversees youth programs at the North Davis Church of Christ, which is just up the street from Lamar, said about 72 calls to police were made in 2011.
"There's roughly 176 days in the school year, so roughly half those days you got to call the police," he said.
Arlington police, Lamar High School and Walgreens have been working to develop an alternative for students.
North Davis Church Christ is now offering an after-school program. Students can "get a quick snack, play some basketball, just chill, just talk with a friend for a little while," Sherrod said.
Sherrod said police wanted to solve the problem, not simply move it from the Walgreens parking lot to another location.
Harmon said that giving students an off-campus option is more likely to attract them.
"The nice thing is that it doesn't have to be here at the high school -- it can be somewhere away, somewhere safe, and it just reinforces the message of care from the community," he said.
Even Walgreens has stepped up -- donating snacks to North Davis Church of Christ's program.
Volunteers at the after-school program include church members, former educators and current teachers and coaches.
"[Students] come in, and they're already asking for some of the older people -- 'Hey, is she going to be here? We just want to talk to her.' It's that mom figure, that grandma figure that some of them may not get at home," Sherrod said.
Lamar has also received a grant for 25 University of Texas at Arlington students to tutor.
Sherrod said it's often too easy to dismiss the troubled students as hopeless.
"The fact of the matter is, they're still kids and you have two choices -- you can say it's a lost cause and you cannot be a part of it or you can do something about it," he said.