DECATUR, Ill., (WCIA) — School isn’t always an easy path for students. Sometimes there are roadblocks and challenges that make learning difficult. Other times, it’s hard to balance extracurriculars with classes and volunteer projects.

But, on Friday in Decatur, students were recognized for their hard work and achieving victory over violence.

Catchy songs and playing games kept kids motivated throughout the school year to participate in the “Because We Care” Youth Empowerment Day.

Between good grades, volunteering and strong attendance, thousands of kids in Decatur earned a spot to play games while wrapping up the school year.

“A lot of students don’t get to go to these things,” Professor Evyonne Hawkins said. She was glad to see them being celebrated.

Hawkins is a co-leader with SIMP Incorporated. It’s a mentoring program in Decatur schools working to prevent violence.

“Today is all about bringing them together that have done well for the year and celebrating them,” she added.

One of those kids is Ya’Hahn Reed, a sixth grader leading the Decatur Boys and Girls Club.

He said he helps out with staffing and cleaning.

Reed also added the fun-filled event kept him motivated to do good in his hometown.

“Because it’s a loving and caring place for other people,” Reed said.

Lt. Scott Rosenbery with the Decatur Police Department wants this generation to help pave the path, and keep Decatur that way.

“It’s been a great experience for them and it’s positive to see them how they’re going to be in the future,” he said.

Hawkins said there hasn’t been any event like this one before and it reminds her that this year’s hard work has all been worth it.

“So much is going on in Decatur and to have something to celebrate with young people is very important,” she said.

Lt. Rosenbery hopes the event encourages students to keep up their good behavior in the summer months ahead, and they can start next school year on an even stronger foot.