RISE stands for Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering. Renika Atkins, LMSW is the founder and executive director. Her life story inspired every program RISE offers and continues to drive their mission.  

RISE MISSION: Their mission is to bridge the disparity gap between the transitioning young adult and the community through education, mentorship, outreach and awareness. 

Renika spent time in the Texas foster care system before getting adopted as a child. She faced a number of challenges and found it difficult at first to finish college. She said that during that time, she realized that youth like her who face family instability and sometimes system involvement see a “lack of college success, homelessness, lack of job outlook, and lack of resources that are meaningful to our future.”  

In 2007, during her undergraduate studies, Renika met her partner in crime, Natasha Bostic who now serves on the RISE board of directors. 

They decided to start an organization to serve the demographic of kids that are or could become system-involved.  

“It started off training professionals to be more trauma-informed when working with youth who came from foster care,” Renika explained. 

She and Natasha recognized that many educators and health care professionals may lack needed training for interacting with these youth. Renika had experienced college professors saying insensitive things or asking prying questions. And worse, she’d seen some teachers form unhealthy relationships with no boundaries with the at-risk youth they were in contact with.  

When the program took off, opportunities continued for RISE. 


Mentorship: Mission I’M Possible 

RISE soon added a mentorship program called Mission I’m Possible for foster youth. They bring interested community members and foster youth together to teach them about college, careers, making decisions, dealing with emotions, healthy relationships, finance, budgeting, etc. The program is listed by DFPS as one of only four, recognized foster child mentorship programs in Fort Worth. 

STEM Camp: {Her} Code 

During the development of RISE, Natasha took a job in tech. Both Renika and Natasha saw an opportunity to empower foster youth through exposing them to the technology field. 

“We saw the opportunities that were there for people who don’t have a college degree or the natural aptitude to be in tech,” Renika said. 

The program, {Her} Code, saw success almost immediately. In fact, it is currently the only summer STEM program for girls in foster care. The camps are for girls 10-17 in foster care but it has also been opened to youth housed at shelters and youth formerly in foster care. They learn from women who work in tech and get to go on field experiences. 

The camp, and the other RISE programs, are largely funded by individual and corporate donations. But in 2020, RISE received a Facebook Community Action Grant for focusing on girls in STEM. Since then, other tech and engineering foundations have made gifts too. 

Adult Housing: The Excel Housing Initiative 

Another challenge for system-involved youth is stable housing. Once out on her own as an adult, Renika struggled with a meaningful, long-term place to live. So she made a program funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides housing for homeless youth people aged 18-24.  

Looking Forward 

Renika says that in observing the issues that the child welfare system faces, it is clear that community organizations like RISE are much needed.  

“The system itself needs to open up to inviting more of our organizations into the fold in order to collaborate. A lot of my success came from outside organizations and people. A lot of my life lessons came from outside of the system.” 

They are working with the traditional foster care population but are also putting a strong focus on those with past system involvement, such as young adults who have aged out, youth who were adopted but whose adoptive family does not provide ongoing support, and informal kinship caregivers.  

Looking ahead, Renika sees the STEM camp expanding to multiple two-week camps across Texas. And for the mentoring program, she plans to expand the programs to more shelters and RTCs that need it. 

She also hopes to continue the rapid re-housing of homeless youth and has a vision for something even more impactful.  

“I would love to create a pathway from homelessness to home ownership.”