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Salvation Army Newark Books and Basketball Program offers safe space to young people to work on achieving their dreams

Salvation Army Newark Books and Basketball Program offers safe space to young people
Salvation Army Newark Books and Basketball Program offers safe space to young people 03:04

NEWARK, N.J. -- There is a youth initiative in Newark that is saving lives.

The Salvation Army Newark Westside Corps Books and Basketball Program is exploding in popularity. Why? Because it provides a safe haven for kids to stay out off the streets and out of trouble.

The man in charge is Muhammad Oliver. His mission in life is to pay it forward.

"Programs like this save lives. If you give a kid an option and let them know what they could be doing, it keeps them off the streets. The ,ore kids we keep off the streets, keep active and in positive situations and positive environments, the more kids we can save," Oliver said.

"Recreation in this area has went down over the years, so I partnered with Salvation Army for Books and Basketball Program, just as an idea to keep my kids off the streets and keep them occupied, and the more and more I got into it, we just realized it was more than my kids that needed it."

Oliver said the program has an open-door policy. No kid gets turned away.

"Whether it's for money, whatever the reason, we figure it out. We raise money. We get a lot of donations in. This is basically a donation-driven program," Oliver said.

Oliver introduced CBS New York to Isis, who he said is the first girl to be part of the basketball program.

"It's real special, because, like, I just started it," Isis said.

Others explained why the program is so important to their development as young people, both on and off the court.

"It means a lot to be able to know you can go somewhere after school and be safe and work on your craft. They don't kick you out. You want to come here and work on your craft, they will always let you. They will always motivate you to do more. They don't want you to settle, I would say, don't want you to settle," 17-year-old Jamir Westry said.

Added 18-year-old Malachi Thomas, "Newark is not really safe. You come and play basketball, and you just get a lot off your mind."

Oliver said his payment for all of his work is just watching the young people succeed.

"I was a kid who needed help growing up and a lot of people were a part of my situation, my story, so I just try to be that helping hand for anybody who need it," Oliver said.

A big success story from the program is Rutgers University star Cliff Omoruyi. Oliver is actually his legal guardian. Omoruyi has made some good NIL -- name, image and likeness -- money while playing in college. He has given a lot of it back to Books and Basketball, which is yet another great example of paying it forward.

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