By Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter
Across the United States, there are more than 1.6 million youth who experience homelessness each year. The Cove is in its third year of providing services for homeless youth in Waco.
Kelly Atkinson is an alumna of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and taught at Baylor for ten years. She currently serves as the executive director at The Cove.
“The Cove is a safe place for young people experiencing homelessness to thrive,” Atkinson said. “We have what is called our Nurturing Center. It’s a safe place to go where you might charge your cell phone, get a hot meal, access showers and laundry. Those are basic needs that students experiencing homelessness have.”
Not every student at The Cove identifies with the standard definition of “homeless.” Atkinson said that the Mckinney-Vento Act is a law that assists education institutions to help give students the appropriate support if they are living in unsafe conditions.
“It’s not necessarily that our students are living on the streets or don’t have a single place to go,” Atkinson said. “It might be bouncing from one family member’s house to another.”
Guenevere J.* is a high school senior and said she dreams of opening up a bakery. She currently works two jobs and said she has had a positive experience at The Cove.
“The Cove is amazing,” Guenevere said. “They welcome you with open arms and treat you like they are a part of their family. They don’ts treat you any different than anyone else. They treat you like they’re you’re family.”
Mentorship is very important among everyone at The Cove. One program was created to provide accountability for the teens who come to the center.
“They’re pretty much your biggest fans and your supporters,” Guenevere said. “They push you to the extreme to do what you can to achieve your goals. They are really supportive and fun, and it’s pretty much like another family you have.”
The Cove and Baylor partner directly to give students the opportunity to experience the center and learn more about the students that the center serves.
“We would not exist apart from Baylor,” Atkinson said. “We have Baylor students who volunteer in the evenings with our Cove scholars. There are so many different ways that different departments, faculty, staff and students at Baylor have supported our work.”
The Cove strives for empowerment and provides every student with a sense of community.
“We want every single student to thrive. That could include dealing with difficulties from their past, but it could also include looking ahead at the capacities that they have to have a bright future.
The Cove serves students from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will be open for the summer as well. For more information or for volunteer inquiries, head to The Cove website.
* Guenevere J. agreed to appear on camera for Lariat TV News, but her last name was left out of the story and video for safety reasons.