Alumnae support youth aging out of foster care

Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024 • Jaelon Jackson :

By Jaelon Jackson
School of Social Work

From left: Renika Atkins and Christie Eckler
From left: Alumni / the founder of RISE, Renika Atkins and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Christie Eckler


The inaugural Brilliance Ball, hosted by Resources Inspiring Success and Empowering or RISE brought together 220 attendees in a celebration of innovation, empowerment, and community impact at The Social Space meeting venue in Fort Worth on May 3.  

The event, designed to support the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, particularly those transitioning from foster care, received enthusiastic participation from professionals, community leaders, and stakeholders.  

The Brilliance Ball aimed to raise awareness about the challenges faced by youth aging out of foster care, especially in pursuing STEM education and careers. Through scholarships, networking opportunities, and tech-inspired experiences, the event fostered empowerment and provided tangible support for these young adults.  

Christie Eckler, a Licensed Master of Social Work, adjunct assistant professor and an alumna of The University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Social Work, served as the inaugural event chair for the Brilliance Ball.  

“Together with our visionary founder, we set a new standard of excellence for an event inspired by technology and promoting access for all.   

“Renika’s unwavering commitment to the future of our youth, young adults, and our community was evident in every aspect of this remarkable event,” Eckler said.  

Renika Atkins, the founder of RISE and a SSW alumna, shared her motivation for hosting the event.   

“What motivates RISE to host the Brilliance Ball is our commitment to creating opportunities and pathways for success for youth in foster care.   

“By merging the tech and nonprofit worlds, we aim to raise awareness, inspire action, and drive meaningful change in the lives of these young adults,” Atkins said.  

Atkins said RISE is dedicated to empowering youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness after aging out of foster care. The organization’s mission includes advocating for systemic change and providing the necessary resources to help these individuals thrive.  

As a Licensed Master of Social Work and Certified Management Professional, Atkins said by raising awareness about the challenges faced by these young adults and providing them with support, resources, and opportunities, RISE aspires to create a brighter future for all.   

Through collective efforts and collaboration, the organizers say they are dedicated to making a lasting impact on the community.  The event organizers plan to make the Brilliance Ball an annual tradition.