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About 20 years ago, Rising TIDE executive director Adele Langworthy gathered on the floor of her office at Covenant Presbyterian Church with a couple of volunteers and children looking for a safe space to receive homework help.
As the need grew, so did the program, and after five years, Rising TIDE at Marguerite Kiefer Education Center’s Education and Development Program for Urban Children and Youth gained its nonprofit status.
After a few years, Rising TIDE expanded across the entirety of the church space to offer full-scale academic and development support services at no cost, including a math and science center, an art room, a lending library, outdoor recreation, a weight room and a “Cuddle Cafe” for children ages 5 and under.
Now, around 100 youth walk through Rising TIDE’s doors each day, and the organization serves around 400 children each year.
About 95% of Rising TIDE’s students are classified by the state as socio-economically disadvantaged and many lack resources at home, such as a computer or dependable internet, said Langworthy.
“They may not have a quiet space that they can call their own to be able to do their homework uninterrupted, they might be living in a small place with a lot of family members around,” said Langworthy.
Not only does Rising TIDE provide ample space to comfortably complete assignments, but students can also receive consistent support, which is a “huge help,” said Langworthy.
“We want to give them every ability to achieve and have them not fall short because they didn’t have a resource available to them,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s an even playing field for them at school.”
Meant to be a safe haven for youth, Rising TIDE emphasizes providing a family atmosphere, said Langworthy.
While the organization primarily serves youth from preschool age through 12th grade, many students who head off to college still return to the center to do homework, Langworthy said.
“We kind of don’t say goodbye to people,” Langworthy said.
In fact, some children who currently attend Rising TIDE are actually children of former participants, said Langworthy.
“There’s a lot of relationship building that takes place, and they know that we care about them, and our staff cares about them, they care about each other,” Langworthy said. “They know that there’s a safe place for who they are and as they’re going through things in life.”
Offering well-rounded support to its youth is a cornerstone of Rising TIDE, and apart from academic support, youth receive a nutritious meal each day and have the opportunity to participate in additional activities throughout the year, ranging from cultural enrichment and investment education to faith-based exploration.
Youth and their families play a key role in determining what programming is offered; over the summer, participating youth selected books to discuss and even requested an ethics program to help guide decision-making, Langworthy said.
“We go directly to them and get their input and try to bring to reality what they feel like they need and what the parents believe they need,” Langworthy said.
Empowerment and guidance on living a happy and fulfilled life is at the root of Rising TIDE’s efforts, said Langworthy, and the organization is always looking for ways to better assist its participants.
“We are constantly looking for the growing edge,” said Langworthy. “How can we be different? How can we offer this differently?”
To meet the growing need and strain placed on parents, Rising TIDE now offers groceries to families, that they can pick up any two days of the week, said Langworthy.
To account for challenges with transportation and the need for a safe space later in the evenings, Rising TIDE has extended its hours and assisted with transportation in the past. Langworthy is hoping to resume both of these services soon in an effort to provide as much support as possible.
While support for the organization is generally split relatively evenly between individual giving, institutional giving and grants, Rising TIDE has limited its grant applications recently to leave funds for organizations in greater need, Langworthy said.
“We were fortunate to have a lot of people step up to help us during the COVID time as we were trying to fill the gap,” she said.
In November, the organization will celebrate its 20th anniversary, and Langworthy looks forward to continuing to provide the most robust family-style support possible.
“I just want us to be able to continue to meet the needs as they arise and continue to mold ourselves where we need to go,” Langworthy said. “We don’t stay stagnant around here, and it’s constantly changing, and it can be really intense, but it’s a good change.
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