DC learning center uses art therapy to help children impacted by gun violence

A D.C. learning center employing art therapy to help children impacted by gun violence is ramping up its operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The TraRon afterschool program evolved into a full-day learning pod through the course of the pandemic at the Langston Lane apartments in the District — and it’s doing more than just helping children with their homework.

“They are our most vulnerable children, and when things happen we don’t always engage them in the more serious conversations,” center president and founder Ryane Nickens said in a video about the program on its website.

Her sister Tracy C. Hall, was killed by gun violence 27 years ago.

The program is available for children in elementary and middle school. It includes tutoring, help with schoolwork and mentoring. Students meet with special art therapists at the nonprofit with a focus on giving them outlets to encourage grief processing and healing.

“I was scared because I thought I was going to get shot,” a young child said in the video about the program.

The Washington Post wrote in a recent article that most of the children attend nearby Stanton Elementary and when they’re having trouble with their remote classes, their teachers will stop by or call the center to help them.

The children eat meals there and take part in their distance learning classes with the help of two paid staff members and volunteer virtual tutors, according to the Post.

“Their voices are hugely ignored,” Nickens said in the video. “They are impacted greatly by what’s happening in their community.”

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