T.U.F.F. Kids was the concept of a few graduates of Cleveland High School during their middle school years. The students vowed that upon graduation and starting successful careers they would return home to build a youth center where children could have fun in a safe supervised environment. In April 2010 Ivan Williams, one of the former students, was approached by then Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara McIntyre and given the charge to come up with something for the youth to do because the city’s pool would be out of commission for the summer. Ivan then reached out to his old friends, classmates, and family members to make a forgotten vow a reality.
The group soon realized that what they all had in common besides growing up in Cleveland was that they were all former athletes, had excelled academically in high school and they still had the desire to make their community a better place to live. The mission of TUFF Kids is “To develop and create physically active and healthy youth while inspiring academic excellence and personal development.” And through the organization’s programs and outreach we hope the kids will become Trained, Unwavering, Focused and Fit.
What began as a vision shared by several bold and ambitious individuals has paved the way for TUFF Kids which services 40-60 kids a day. These ambitious individuals wanted to use their collective strengths to promote enhanced academic preparation, character building and leadership skills to students between the ages of seven and eighteen. They joined forces to provide effective solutions to issues impacting students having difficulties with the TAKS exams, math, basic reading skills, personal finance, health, sex education and the fundamentals of sports.
Since its founding the organization has become a pillar within the community. The healthy meals, group discussions, tutoring, field trips, physical education, motivational speakers, and mentoring TUFF Kids provides is unparalleled by any other organization in the community. TUFF Kids recognizes the advantage of collaboration and often does so to meet community needs. The organization was recognized and thanked by the city council in 2010 and again in 2014.
TUFF Kids is a 501c3 non-profit organization which operates solely on the support of volunteers, donations, and sponsors. The increasing demands of the 21st century mandate our youth to be better leaders at a younger age and make smarter choices with defined and positive consequences. Which is often a struggle in impoverished communities where they may be suffering from food and housing insecurities. Which is why T.U.F.F. Kids saw the need to expand its services to meet the financial and housing education needs of the parents.
T.U.F.F. Kids staffers have become certified as CreditSmart Essentials coaches through FreddieMac in 2019. This program teaches participants how to manage money, build credit, set financial goals, and become homeowners. In 2020 they have also become USDA certified loan packagers where we assist low and very low-income families in obtaining mortgages directly from USDA at extremely low interest rates for extended terms making home ownership obtainable. And in the past year we have taught the CreditSmart Essential series once and three families have obtained homeownership.
T.U.F.F. Kids is currently in the process of getting more staff certified through both programs and hope to assist 10 families become homeowners a year. As a staff we are extremely excited that after 12 years of renting facilities our youth center is nearing completion. The completion of this center will not only provide a permanent location for after school programing but also additional community resources like entrepreneurship and technical assistance for business owners pursuing government contracts.