‘We have to be those big brothers’: Local organization Rise provides safe space for at-risk youth

(L-R): Rise co-founders David Lenard, Aaron Edgley and Brandon Turner pose at their new facility in St. George, Utah, April 22, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University student David Lenard, Dove Center board of trustees member Aaron Edgley and recent Dixie State graduate Brandon Turner recently founded Rise, an organization designed to support local at-risk youth. 

Rise is located at 25 N. 100 East, Suite 107 in St. George, Utah, April 22, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

The purpose of Rise is to provide resources and security to youth in need, by offering food, clothing, a place to hang out, relationship building, skill development and employment opportunities. Local at-risk youth and their families are invited to utilize the space and resources available to them through the soon-to-be nonprofit.

Coming from diverse backgrounds and career fields has fostered within them an awareness of the need for a safe space for young people, Lenard said, adding that he and his co-founders hope to be “big brothers” for youth in the St. George area who need positive role models. 

“We’re here to help kids succeed further on in life,” Lenard told St. George News. “We have to be those big brothers. It’s just about being yourself and taking in the small things in life and enjoying it.”

After several months of planning, Rise officially opened for business on Jan. 1. Since then, the organization has grown to support between two and six kids in their facility on a given day, Lenard said. With school in session, the space has mainly been utilized for after-school activities, but in the summer, Lenard and his team hope to take day trips and include parents in social activities. 

“That’s when kids go out and get into trouble because they don’t have anything to do that’s structured, so we’re going to provide that structure for them,” Lenard said. “We want the community to be involved. We want them to come and check out what Rise is.”

He added that it’s important to Rise to give the community the opportunity to see the space, meet the team and learn more so they feel comfortable sending their kids and utilizing the resources. Lenard, Edgley and Turner agreed that mentors were scarce in their neighborhoods in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

The diversity of the team and their firsthand knowledge of what positive mentorship can do for a young person makes Rise unique, Turner said. 

“I did have mentors growing up and I do see that it worked, and I feel like I’m living the example of it,” he said. “I had football and different things that showed me because I was around a lot of at-risk youth, a lot of situations that could’ve gone bad, but programs like this helped steer me away from it.”

Families in need are encouraged to utilize the food pantry and other resources at Rise in St. George, Utah, April 22, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

Aside from Lenard, Edgley and Turner, Rise also has the help of a few committed female community members who donate time and mentorship to the kids when they can. It’s important to have role models for both boys and girls so no one feels uncomfortable seeking help at Rise, Lenard said.

In addition to activities and community resources, Rise utilizes community donations to provide things like clothes and food to families in need. The goal is to never have to turn away someone in need or tell a child they can’t do a certain activity because they don’t have the money, Edgley said. 

“We want to be able to have enough resources dollars-wise to not say ‘no’ to any kid,” he said. “Everything we do is donation, whether it’s our hours, our time or our own dollars … every dollar that we have in our account has been donated by the community. We don’t charge anything.”

Lenard said the community is also encouraged to reach out to Rise if they know a child in need of support. For more information, Lenard and the team can be reached by email, online or by phone at 951-425-6861. To see the facility, visit Rise at 25 N. 100 East, Suite 107 in St. George.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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