Local nonprofit helps homeless high school students beat the odds

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A nonprofit in Central Texas helping homeless high school students beat the odds and finish school is seeing enormous success in only its third year and has been chosen as this week’s TFNB Charity Champion.

(Staff photo)

“Our first year we had eight graduate and then last year we had 21,” said Executive Director Kelly Atkinson.

The Cove is a teen nurturing center in Waco for homeless students providing them with everything from after-school homework help to mentoring, showers, counseling and even haircuts.

Helping homeless youth in Central Texas has been the mission of the group since opening in 2016 and employees say it’s a mission the community has embraced.

“We have amazing community partnerships,” Atkinson said.

“Just so many people in the city who have said ‘this a problem and we want to end youth homelessness in Waco.”

The first year in operation the Cove served 61 students.

Last year, that number grew by more than 25 percent to 76 student and it continues to climb as a homeless liaison in the Waco ISD continues to flag homeless students and refer them to the center.

“If there is just not a safe and stable place for them to be then they refer them to us at The Cove,” Atkinson said.

“So we see dozens of new students and already have this year.”

In the Waco ISD alone, 335 high school students were identified as homeless this school year.

Of that group, 161 were also labeled unaccompanied meaning they are not in the care of a parent or guardian.

“They really are trying to figure out life on their own, but they’re not adults and they haven't graduated and they don't have all the tools that they need to get there,” Atkinson said.

“Sometimes it might be that mom is incarcerated or there is mental illness in the family and there's just not fixed and adequate and stable housing so our kids bounce around a lot. “

The Cove was chosen as this weeks “Charity Champion” by TFNB bank and will be recognized on the field at the Baylor football game on Saturday as well as featured on the KWTX Baylor Gameday program.

“We know that we are making a difference,” Atkinson said.

“Our students are just so powerful and they’re resilient and they work hard to finish school and we’re there to support them.”