Ocean Tides graduates celebrate successful completion and a new outlook on life.

The De La Salle Christian Brothers from this District run two premier Youth & Family Service Programs in Rhode Island, both of which are no stranger to innovation and to meeting challenges. In fact, both programs were begun by the Brothers to address unmet needs of underserved populations.

Ocean Tides was founded in 1975 on the grounds of Christian Brothers Center in Narragansett RI. Seeing the need for an alternative to traditional juvenile detention, the Brothers founded Ocean Tides as a residential program for courtremanded teenage boys. This residential school includes intimate classroom learning, positive behavior programs, vocational training, one-on-one mentoring, family interactions, and more. Since then, they have added an alternative non-residential day-school in Providence that offers many of the same advantages for at-risk students.

2018 graduate of Tides Family Services and his family share excitement and hope for his future.

Then in 1983, the Brothers founded Tides Family Services to promote family preservation and stem the tide of youths getting to the point of residential placement. Tides has accomplished this through a growing system of individual, family, and group counseling; home visitations; educational and court advocacy; as well as the networking of social services. They are now in multiple locations across the state, and also operate two schools certified for students with special needs.

As the pandemic swept our world, the alternative schools run by Tides Family Services had to go virtual just like traditional schools. However, due to the unique nature of most of the programs of both agencies, they were not able to simply “go virtual” and maintain the personalized care that is needed.

At Ocean Tides residential program, students have continued to grow in their learning while receiving mentoring, guidance, and family visits, all in COVID-safe ways. “Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide a safe, supportive, and challenging home for our young men,” said Br. James Martino, FSC, president of Ocean Tides. “While accepting and managing the risks to front line workers, our dedicated staff have continuously adapted with changes to behavior management, meals, PPE, and everything in between.”

“We have added fun and engaging activities on campus and manage to keep social distance without creating relational distance,” added Ocean Tides teacher Br. Paul Avvento, FSC.

Tides Family Services, as a family preservation, community-based mobile agency, had to pivot quickly to meet the needs of its clients and families. For “Tides Trackers,” who visit clients’ homes to ensure they are going to school or engaging in helpful programming, the pandemic made their work much more challenging. Personal connections were made possible by utilizing all known safeguards, such as physical distancing and PPE. “It’s always important that we can get face-to-face so that our clients aren’t feeling isolated, or alone, or feel like they aren’t being supported enough in any way,” said Tides Tracker Sarah Pearson.

Ocean Tides residents take part in the rope course during a team-building exercise.

As the pandemic continued and remote learning became a part of life in most schools, Tides Family Services and Ocean Tides listened to concerned parents and teachers. One resounding subject came to the forefront, the difficulties students—and parents—were having with trying to achieve their full learning potential in a virtual environment. On further investigation, they found that this problem exists throughout the educational system. Therefore, the experts from Tides Family Services and Ocean Tides collaborated to create a new, online program to assist and support all students and parents. This new program is TidesLearning.

La Salle Academy student, Danielle, a volunteer tutor on TidesLearning, shares the screen with a student who has asked for help.

TidesLearning provides students with free access to learning resources such as note-taking guides, study guides, videos, and more. Even further, live Zoom tutoring sessions, connections with teachers, and even counseling are available. This was made possible by leveraging the Lasallian network of ministries. Teachers, student tutors, counselors, and social workers from several of our Lasallian secondary and higher ed institutions have joined Tides Family Services and Ocean Tides to provide this free service to students and parents from any school.

This collaboration even caught the attention of US Senator Jack Reed. “With greater access to technology there’s the potential to open new doors of opportunity to young people. As a community, we need to work together to support our children’s education in school, at home, and in the community. TidesLearning is a model to do just that.”

In these uncertain times, being brother and sister to the young people entrusted to our care has taken on a much deeper meaning. For Ocean Tides and Tides Family Services, it is meeting students where they are that creates the opportunity to “teach minds, touch hearts, and transform lives,” in new and imaginative ways so as to “never give up on a kid…never!”