It started with a need to help kids in a small North Texas town.

As most life-changing things do, it started with a need. A need to help kids in a small North Texas town, kids who were dealing with the stress of life events beyond their control, the kind of stress that impacts a person for years to come.

Enter the THRIVE Program. THRIVE stands for Together Harnessing Resources to Give Individuals Voice and Empowerment, and it’s been key to helping improve the lives of underserved students in North Texas. With the help of two Texas Health Resources grants, the Sanger Independent School District (SISD), along with First Refuge Ministries, First Baptist and New Life churches of Sanger, and the City of Sanger, implemented THRIVE to aid those students in need.

The initial grant, with the support of student services coordinator Ann Hughes and SISD principal Tony Love, provided students with the Ripple Effects resiliency training and support services, including counseling and low-cost or free medical and mental health care. Studies show that one in four children have experienced adverse childhood trauma in their lives, including risk of homelessness, violence, divorce, and food insecurity. Through the resiliency program, middle and high school students learn the skills to help them cope and move forward.

That grant also helped start a grocery store inside the Linda Tutt High School in Sanger. Program champion and Executive Director at First Refuge Ministries Paul Juarez said, “The idea of a grocery store started evolving while on a drive with my wife.” Soon, the “what-ifs” turned into “why-nots” and the idea grew.

Paul, who has a background in the grocery business, saw the grocery store as a possible solution to many problems. First, it provided students and their families convenient access to food. It also provided a chance for students to use what they learned through the Ripple Effects program. Students run the store themselves, and goods are purchased with points earned by students who perform good deeds or exhibit kind or resilient behaviors.

With the second grant, the district was able to fund a community garden, called Community Strong Farms. The garden is located on 14 acres donated by the New Life Church in Denton. Produce grown in the garden will supply the grocery store and other community food banks and will be sold at farmer’s markets to help fund the garden.

Looking Forward: EXPANSION!

The THRIVE Program and grocery store has been replicated with adaptations as needed in these additional schools: Delay Middle School in the Lewisville ISD, Furlough Middle School in the Terrell ISD, A+ Charter Inspired Vision Academy Secondary School in Dallas, and O.D. Wyatt High School in the Fort Worth ISD.

Texas Health Foundation continues to raise funds to expand the THRIVE Program to additional locations throughout North Texas over the next three years. Those funds, plus the support of community leaders and business partners, will help at a critical point in these students’ lives. For more information how you or your organization can help contact, Anne Smith at 469-387-5277 or

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