TAMPA - The third floor of the Seminole Heights United Methodist Church can be a busy place after school. In one room, decked out with posters of Van Morrison and the Pretenders, kids take ukulele lessons. In the next, in front of a mural of purple flowers, a parkour class is going on, where kids can learn a military-style training method that builds agility and balance.
TRIBE, a nonprofit started by Kristen Brown, opened nine months ago in Seminole Heights. It now offers about 55 after school classes, ranging from fiber arts to Pokemon, each week. It has no affiliation with the church, and everything from the wall decorations to the class instructors time has been donated. Each class costs $5.
Brown said she wanted to give parents an affordable option for their kids to explore more.
“All the things going away from schools, the things that help kids channel that energy and find their passions, are disappearing from schools,” she said.
At $5 per drop-in class and no long-term commitment required, she wanted to create an option that would be more accessible than traditional after school activities. The organization has also offered a few workshops for adults, but is mainly focused on children’s programming.
“Sometimes you have a kid that has a parent who’s in a good mood and has $5 on one day,” she said.
When Brown went through a divorce when her now 9-year-old son was a baby, she found herself thinking about the idiom “it takes a village.”
“It was always other moms who sustained me,” she said. “You find your tribe. People you might not have necessarily thought would be a part of it. ...We’ve been created to be a community, to share our gifts with the smallest members of our tribe.”
Candice Enriquez, who brings her eight-year-old and 14-month-old, said the community aspect of TRIBE is rare.
“It’s easy to become isolated in our current culture,” she said. “But getting out and teaching our kids to get out and have relationships with other people is worth exploring.”
Enriquez met other parents while waiting for her kids’ classes, and she began volunteering, teaching a baby sign language class.
Christine Hanna, who has two 7-year-old sons, said she saw a post on Facebook about the classes and saw they had a chess class, something one of her sons was interested in.
“I was looking for my kids to learn from people other than me and other than teachers,” she said. “There's such a big world and so many people to learn from, expand their minds. ...I thought what the hell it's $5, there's no long term commitment.”
Her son, Sebastian, loved it.
“It’s really fun,” he said.
Hanna said she enjoys meeting other families at the TRIBE and compared it to intentional community-building in the 70s. Brown has a closet full of donated clothes for families in need, and Hanna and other parents often donate snacks.
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“We do have community now but it’s just electronic a lot of the times,” Hanna said. “That’s great, and I’m the first one to appreciate that, but it is nice to have a regular get together.”
Brown said the organization is constantly seeking new volunteers with course ideas and she hopes to have homework helpers around every day to assist as well.
“The most rewarding part is to help volunteers find something they find joyful about giving to the community,” she said. “I get to see the beauty of another human being. I get to see them open their hearts and get excited.”
For more information about TRIBE, visit http://tribeseminoleheights.com/ or call (813) 563-1582.