Celebrating 20 Years
A Celebration in the Redwoods
Saturday, October 16, 2021, the Children Rising family gathered together under a canopy of redwood trees in Roberts Park to celebrate 20 years of nurturing and empowering children and youth. It was a wonderful time to reconnect with so many dear friends.
Randy Roth reflected on the seeds that took root 20 years ago as Faith Network of the East Bay and grew into Children Rising. He reminded us of the importance of a community called by God to work for the SHALOM of the city – its health, welfare, and prosperity. He shared the story of Abraham Wordsworth, one of our early Succeeding by Reading students. Abraham started with Children Rising as a second-grader after immigrating from Liberia. He thrived in our one-on-one tutoring sessions, received mentorship over the years from his devoted tutor, and now works as an account executive at Salesforce. Abraham is just one example of a young life transformed through a relationship with a caring tutor. It was inspiring to see Abraham and Randy together all these years later.
We also heard from Roma Groves-Waters, the long-time principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and current Children Rising Board Member. Roma has seen firsthand the power of relationships and the impact the community can have on a neighborhood school. That message was echoed by Jim Hampton, a supporter from the very beginning, and Nafeesa Ahmad-Bey, who served in leadership at Burbank Elementary School, the first school to invite Faith Network of the East Bay to partner with them. Although retired, she is still a strong advocate for Children Rising, joyfully and faithfully giving back after all these years. It was amazing to see familiar faces, hear stories from the past, and look forward to the next 20 years of Children Rising.
A very special thank you to The Table Catering, who once again provided amazing food, Silver Dahlia Baking for the scrumptious cupcakes, and Vincent Tolliver, who serenaded us with his viola. All are integral members of the Children Rising family and provided a touch of class to our outdoor celebration.
Memories from 20 Years of Children Rising
As we reflect on 20 years of nurturing and equipping children to rise to their God-given potential, we have been collecting and sharing memories from the Children Rising community.
We want to hear from you.
If you have a story you would like to share, you can post it on our Facebook page, or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it here and on our social media for you.
In 1988, First Covenant Church of Oakland asked me to serve as their new senior pastor. I told them that if I were to accept the call, it would be a call not only to a local church but also to the city. Jeremiah 29:7, “Seek the Shalom of the city where I’ve called you.” Shalom — peace, prosperity, health, and wholeness. I took the role, and it wasn’t long before we established a Friday morning 6:00 AM prayer meeting to pray for the Shalom of Oakland. Along the way, church member Mary Shaw invited church members to volunteer at the school across from First Covenant, Redwood Heights. Several of us signed up, and I got hooked, amazed by how the children bonded and paid attention. Meanwhile, Dennis Chaconas, then Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District, came to the Pastors of Oakland and said,
“We need you and your churches to partner with our Oakland schools.” — Dennis Chaconas, former Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District
I was called to leave pastoral ministry in 2001. I told my wife Diane, “I think it’s time for me to get out of the boat and to dive into uncharted waters.” In starting Faith Network of the East Bay, we developed a model that still works today: to energize congregations and the broader community to come together to nurture and equip our children. We humbly ask first, “What do you need us to do?” We then find ways to be of service to those needs. And since then, it’s blossomed and grown. But you can’t hang fruit from a tree. It has to come from the roots. It has to be organic growth. You cannot beat the power of a relationship. Being there, just showing up, someone said, is 80% of success. We are intercepting cycles of poverty by inspiring and equipping today’s youth for a life of serving others and contributing positively to their communities. And I’m able to say 20 years later, amen and amen.
Volunteer since 2001
Programs: Teacher Appreciation
For several years from the beginning of Children Rising, I was part of the Teacher Appreciation Team.
My fondest memories are of the times I spent working with my precious dear friend Diane Roth. As part of her team we prepared and setup thank you lunches each month for the teachers at Emerson and Burckhalter Elementary schools.
It was always a pleasure to meet and get to know the principals and teachers at each school. They enjoyed the delicious food and beautiful decorations and appreciated everything we did to show them how much they were appreciated. If you knew Diane you know it was always nicely done.
I will always treasure these memories of my time as a volunteer at Children Rising.
Volunteer since 2003
Programs: Succeeding by Reading
I have been a friend of Faith Network/Children Rising for 18 years: as a tutor, reading clinic coordinator, contributor, mensch, and most recently, a copycat of the Succeeding by Reading program, which my husband and I will launch soon at a Title One school in Novato. Without hesitation and with the deepest gratitude, I can attest that the Children Rising organization and its people are the REAL DEAL in every aspect and in every step along the way from inspiration to results. Everything they say, do, and decide is rooted in profound care for the children and honor and respect for their families and schools. Every person involved, whether as staff, volunteer, or contributor shares that deep care, and brings to the goal and task of serving the children their utmost dedication and skill. That’s why CR’s programs and initiatives succeed…all eyes, ears, hearts, and minds truly are with and for the children. And that’s why for me and many, being one of the CR family is the utmost honor, pleasure, and blessing.
Volunteer since 2001
Math Tutoring Online, Summer 2021 – A Pleasant Experience
I have been volunteering with Faith Network/Children Rising since Randy Roth founded the organization in 2001 and currently serve at Burckhalter School helping fourth-and fifth-grade students with mathematics. Children Rising offered a 5-week online tutoring program for students during June and July of this year, so I decided to enroll in the training to learn how to use the IXL program. Afterwards, Esteban, a soon-to-be fourth grader, was assigned to work with me. I was somewhat apprehensive because I had never used an online training method before, but I managed to adapt to it and found it to be useful. Esteban was attentive and responsive. He eagerly answered questions, and with each successive session progressed to more advanced levels. He also expressed his honesty by appropriately telling me if he was tired and needed a break. I want to thank Michelle Hutcherson and Margena Wade-Green for coordinating this program. I look forward to future opportunities.
Volunteer since 2007
Programs: Succeeding by Reading
When I first became a tutor for “Faith Network,” I didn’t really know what I’d signed up for! But a wonderful training session gave me confidence, and I felt prepared to meet my student!
Gary had shining eyes and a mischievous smile. He wanted to learn everything our program had to offer, and he was like a little sponge!
When we read a book called THE WORD JAR, we got the idea to save the really big words we encountered, like “surprise” and “dictionary” and put them in a special envelope—a WORD envelope!
At the end of our weekly sessions, Gary loved pulling those words out one by one and READING THEM! He made great strides that year, and I know I did too! We learned together, I gained confidence in my ability to teach, and I loved being a part of a wonderful program. But best of all, we both had FUN!
Volunteer since 2005
Programs: Classroom Helper and Succeeding by Reading
A favorite memory from my years of tutoring is a time I worked with two students, Ryan and Alexandra. One was the alternate if the other was absent, but I often tutored them together. They were really fun, interactive, competitive, and kept me on my toes! Ryan liked to distract us by telling stories, much to Alexandra’s dismay (“Not another story!” she’d say, palm to her forehead!). They were both eager to learn, and did so well that by early Spring were able to graduate from the program.
At the end of our last session they stood on either side of my chair, each with an arm around my neck, and one said, “If we do badly again can we come back?” My heart melted. I told them, “You’re graduating!”, that this was a good thing, and they should always do their best!
It’s been a joy to connect with students and celebrate their accomplishments.
Former Principal at Burbank Elementary
What I remember is that we met two days after September 11, 2001, and so our meeting took place under incredible circumstances. That was my first time meeting Randy. I was struck by him, that this man was giving up his ministry to serve the children of Oakland. I was wowed and touched by his commitment.
We talked about what I felt the needs were for our school community. For me, it wasn’t only about the children, who, of course, are central to everything, but it was also about how do we serve the whole community, especially the teachers. I taught in Oakland for many years before I became a principal. I understood the stressors that the teachers were under every day.
The staff were demoralized. They didn’t feel like they were listened to. They really felt like they were out there alone. There was a lot of distrust. “Why should I trust you? Why should I trust Faith Network?” That was the atmosphere.
At first it was like, “You’re going to get us tutors? Yeah, right. You’re going to get people to help us on the playground? Yeah, right.” But then suddenly tutors started showing up. And then there were people in the playground helping and they were consistent and they were reliable. And then we started having little nice luncheons.
People started asking, “When’s Randy coming?” and “You know what else they can do…” They started looking for the Faith Network people to tell them what they wanted.
There was an issue with the library and our library had been closed. We didn’t have anyone in there and Randy helped us get someone to work in the library. That was one of the projects: to get that library alive, so kids could have books and things to read and books to take home.
We had faith in Faith Network. Faith Network listened to us. They listened and then they acted upon what they heard. They didn’t listen and then do what they wanted to do. They listened and then they came through. They showed up.
Former Teacher at Burbank Elementary School
My memories of Faith Network are many. Burbank Elementary was the first school to be blessed with the wonderful volunteers. So my memories are about the people of Faith Network beginning with Randy Roth. When I first met him I asked myself, “What can he do for our school?” Well, I found out he (and the volunteers) could do many things! Provide tutors, playground supervisors and mentors for the children. They were not only concerned about the children’s academic needs, but the whole child and the family. I remember a family needing a washer and dryer and Faith Network help to provide these items.
And so much support and encouragement for the teachers and staff. Wonderful lunches and special treats on special days for all of us thanks to Diane Roth and her volunteers. Recognizing and honoring the hard work we do each day as teachers.
So may God Bless the people of Faith Network/Children Rising and special thanks and appreciation to our founder, Randy Roth.
Former Teacher at Burbank Elementary
I was at Luther Burbank Elementary School. We were the first school Faith Network of the East Bay, now Children Rising, started working with. All of the teachers were worn out and down. Randy Roth appeared in a meeting and explained the program to our principal and us. We were so happy to have people come and volunteer with our kids. Our children saw new faces, and it was like a breath of fresh air.
Everyone who worked with the students was so kind and patient with them. They listened to the teachers and the students so well. Not only did the students have special people doing great things for them and with them, the teachers were recognized often and given treats. Volunteers came in and set up luncheons for us! They thought of special gifts for the teachers that made us feel so cared for.
Diane and Randy Roth, along with their daughter Chelsea, and all of the Faith Network volunteers, did such wonderful, thoughtful things for the entire school!!
We felt love all around us. We were truly blessed.