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Beacon House provides hundreds of at-risk youth a safe haven, hot meals, sports

Beacon House in Ward 5 of D.C. provides hundreds of at-risk youth a safe haven, hot meals, homework help, and ability to participate in a sports league. (ABC7)

Tucked inside the Edgewood Terrace community in Ward 5 of D.C. is Beacon House; a house that provides hundreds of at-risk youth a safe haven after school, offering hot meals, homework help and a sports league.

According to a George Washington University study, that athletics program is not only keeping the youngsters physically fit, but it's also boosting their mental health by teaching them resilience.

Monica Ruiz, an assistant research professor at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health who did the study, says, "With building resilience, they think, ok, this is a temporary obstacle. That's giving them a tremendous foundation for achievement later in life."

Having coaches who act as mentors is a big part. Volunteer football coach Melvin Ward says Beacon House saved his life. Now he's paying it forward.

"My message to the kids is always do the right thing, regardless of circumstances," says Ward.

What do the young football players say they have learned?

"I've learned to show determination and grit. Like when you're down, like pick yourself up and just keep going. Encourage yourself," says 14-year-old Amonte Dreher.

"Be focused. Don't get caught up with anybody. Follow your own path," explains 10-year-old Tristan Waters.

"I learned like things in life, like you need to study or you're not gonna get anything done I've changed," adds 11-year-old Anthony Joynes.

Beacon House Executive Director Pam Brier sees it as giving the young athletes tools to navigate life.

"They're just all around feeling good about themselves and what they might accomplish in their lives," says Brier. "It's an incredible thing to watch."

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