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Meet Renika Atkins of Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering (RISE) in Fort Worth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Renika Atkins.

Renika, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
As a former foster/adoptive youth, foster alumni, I saw the need for proactive, elevating and sustainable resources while transitioning into adulthood. I was born and raised in Houston, TX in a two-parent low middle-income household, growing up had its difficulties. In the area I was from the socioeconomic outlook was to not even graduate high school.

My environment did very little to promote education much less being a successful black woman. Nonetheless, I prevailed, I was naturally inquisitive and resilient. I just knew I could not accept the status quo and always had this feeling like there was more to know and more to do. I went on to graduate high school and against my familial norm, I went on to complete college with a Bachelors of Science in Sociology and a Masters of Social Work.

While in college, I struggled, I was excelling academically but mentally and emotionally the stressors of transitioning into adulthood were wearing me into depression. I became increasingly aware that the experiences of my peers did not match my experiences as an independent young adult in college.

I always carried that inquisitive and resilient spirit that something can be done and the responses that we get from systems (colleges, social services, federal, etc) can be improved and delivered in a more effective way that will increase the chances of success while transitioning into adulthood. RISE was born from my experiences as a young adult navigating the college and career system. There was always two responses to my needs as foster alumni either the professional was not very knowledgable of resources or the resources that were made available only took care of immediate needs with no lasting impression on long term outcomes. RISE, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 2015 with the mission to bridge the disparity gap between the transitioning youth/young adult and their community through awareness, education, outreach, mentorship, and advocacy. RISE offers services to both the professional and the client, I believe we are one of the few social services organizations that intentionally do that.

I can say that I have INTENTIONALLY made the decision to upset the status quo for youth and young adults in transition. The transitional state is where all the upset, discovery and realization happens and that’s where I intend to dwell in.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all. Some struggles I have faced is that the child welfare system we function in is very outdated and very fixated. The system as a whole is starting to open up now to nontraditional concepts of aging out/ transitioning out of foster care; however, it has a long way to go.

Another struggle has been the access to quality information and resources as a small, focused start-up nonprofit in such a large metroplex. The funding is there; however, the support and ability to formulate long-lasting relationships is a bit of a challenge. As a young Black woman founder, there aren’t many resources catered to my demographic of founders. In response to this, I have sort of taken a role of coach/mentor to other female founders of color, offering clear and concise information and effective skills I have come to develop over the years.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering (RISE) – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to bridge the disparity gap for transitioning youth/young adult and their community through outreach, awareness, mentorship, education, and advocacy. We specialize in services for youth and young adults who have a history of involvement with the child welfare system in Texas. We utilize popular concepts or opportunities to engage the youth/young adult in being connected to resources in their community through personal development, education, and career exploration. We also work with professionals in their lives anywhere from the daycare worker to social worker. We provide trauma-informed training to all helping professionals in the lives of youth/young adults in transition.

We currently have two programs Mission I’M Possible a mentoring program for youth ages 11-17 where they are paired with mentors who utilize curriculum education, community engagement, and intern/co-op opportunities to provide protective barriers to successful outcomes after aging out or transitioning. We also have the Professional leadership Institute which provides training and CEUs to professionals in the lives of foster youth and alumni.

We currently have two initiatives Take the Job, pre-employment services for transitioning young adults and {HER} Code: Summer experience which is a summer day camp for girls ages 11-17 who are currently experiencing a special family situation (foster care, adoption, kinship, etc)

This year is the year of STEM for our {HER} Code initiative; we are engaging young girls through STEM in order to broaden their horizons in the field but also reach the professionals in STEM in order to make them aware of our youth/young adult in foster care services.

I am most proud of the growth and boldness of my organization. Without any permission, we have pushed the boundaries of aging out back that much further and I INTEND to keep on pushing them until they do not exist anymore.

We are set apart in our approach to aging out. We have no current constraints of being apart of the child welfare system so we can work with any group currently in foster care, aging out or even youth who got to return home. Another concept that sets apart is that we are based in the community and travel to deliver our services.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the Dallas/ Fort Worth area because it allows for growth and expansion of not only organizations but ideas as well. It is highly usual for collaboration and community engagement to be obtainable.

I least like that it is so spread out, it can be hard to reach the rural or outer portions because there is such a great concentrated need within the core areas such as Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth.

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