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Nonprofit gives Penn Hills kids a safe place to gather after school

Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens gives Penn Hills kids a safe place to gather after school
Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens gives Penn Hills kids a safe place to gather after school 02:39

PENN HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) -- An organization in Penn Hills is giving young people not only a safe place to go and have fun after school, but a place for the community to gather.

With energy to burn off, the after-school programming from the Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens nonprofit gives kids a place where they play with friends, from basketball to tug of war to running around the playground.

Twelve-year-old Ahmia Foote, who's been in the after-school program for two years says, "I really like hanging out with my friends and, you know, after school having somewhere to go, a safe place to go, and have people to talk to."

Her friend, 13-year-old MaKenzie Poston, says, "I like coming to the after-school program because it gives me more time and gives me stuff to do because if I was at home I wouldn't really do nothing but sleep and watch TV all day."

Kids from second through 10th grades not only let off steam but do educational activities like writing prompts and science experiments from the Citizen's Science Lab.

Ahmia says, "I really like how they bring education, but they also bring it in like a fun way."

And Jaiden Blakeman, who's 12, says, "Honestly, they take care of us, like we're their children, and yeah, that's what I like about it."

It's all the vision of Kahlil Darden, who founded Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens eight years ago when he was a student at Penn Hills High School and saw the need for a place for kids to go when the YMCA closed.

"It feels really good to be able to come back and give young people something that I wasn't able to have when I was at school," Kahlil says.

He also makes sure each child is given a mentor -- someone on the staff they can talk to.

"They're able to build personal relationships with the staff where the staff has nearly experienced everything that the young people now are facing," he says.

MaKenzie says, "If you have a problem, I feel like they're the main ones you can come to. So like if you're going through something or whatever, just go to them. Sometimes they'll give you guidance."

Kahlil knows how important it can be to have someone to talk to. His godson was killed in a shooting in Downtown Pittsburgh in 2022, and he named the facility the De'Avry A. Thomas Community Center after him. Now, he's getting grant money to renovate the former school and expand programming to include a computer lab with 3D printers, an art studio and a co-working space so even more people can come and gather.

"I faced a lot of traumatic experiences over the last few years, and for me, it was being able to take that pain and turn it into purpose and provide spaces for young people who might be experiencing the things that I went through," he said.

There's a nominal fee of only $50 per school year for the students to attend the after-school program, and kids from anywhere around the region are welcome. They'll also be offering summer programming as well.

For more after-school and summer programs for young people in the Pittsburgh region, go to

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