KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Across the U.S., large numbers of young children are affected by one or more risk factors that have been linked to academic failure and poor health, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. A Knoxville non-profit organization recently expanded their after-school program to continue helping at-risk kids as they cater to the children’s needs for successful growth.

Thrive is an after-school program that originated in Lonsdale, helping hundreds of at-risk youth. Now their calling to help kids in the area is developing.

“We’ve expanded to five different locations and serve about 240 kids everyday after school for three hours, and we offer academic tutoring, homework help, small groups, extra curricular activities and we provide dinner for all of the kids every night,” Holly Kizer, the grant writer for Thrive, said.

All of this plays a key role in the young students’ growth in and outside of the classroom as they cater to students k-12.

“When you have that time away from the negative influences that they would face otherwise, then it really is changing their trajectory,” Kizer said.

By providing wholeness spiritually, emotionally and physically, Kizer said it all ties together with education, providing long-lasting results.

“A lot of cases there’s more than a 1 to 1 ratio of volunteers and interns to a student, and I’ve seen incredible outcomes as our students have gone on to college,” Kizer said. “In 2021 we had 80 percent of our seniors go to college which is unheard of in these communities, so we are truly invested in every area of these students’ lives.” 

It’s through this program that Thrive hopes more opportunities will be provided for the kids that need it most.

“When I think about the lives that are changed at Thrive and see those kids smiling faces, who come every day and are so excited to be there, you can just see their happiness and their growth and just to have a safe space to go is just so important for families and the community.”

To learn more about the program, contact Kizer at holly@helpusthrive.com. There is also a need for volunteers. Anyone can help with providing food, cooking, becoming an elective teacher, working in their community garden, along with other opportunities. Those interested can email volunteer@helpusthrive.com.