Creating Dreamers and Doers: Ariel Deck

Guided by purpose.

Schooldays end with a “welcome home” at Tiqvah Hands of Hope, an after-school mentoring program for students who live in the city of Canton.

A simple phrase graces the threshold of the doors they enter every day:

“You can change the world.”

Waiting on the other side is Ariel Deck. A member of the Tiqvah team, this Kent State University at Stark senior is one of the first faces the children see. They greet “Miss Ariel” with a hug as they climb onto her lap. 

It is not uncommon to see their tiny hands combing through her long, blonde hair. Tiqvah provides a retreat from a homelife where affection isn’t always gained and trauma peeks around each corner.

Working with the children in the Tiqvah program has provided Deck, a human development and family studies (HDFS) major, with a unique experiential learning opportunity.

“It is one of my absolute favorite things,” said Deck. “Because Kent State Stark is close to home, it has given me the chance to pursue employment that makes a real difference, right here in my community.”

For this 2012 GlenOak High School graduate, a typical day begins with an 8 a.m. class at Kent State Stark, followed by a visit to Canton City Schools to observe her Tiqvah third-graders in the classroom. After school, she works at the Tiqvah facility in downtown Canton until 9 most evenings. 

Deck also fills her weeks with a practicum at Akron Children’s Hospital, where she focuses on social and emotional health studies. In her role, she travels with the hospital’s trauma trainer to regional school districts to instruct teachers on new classroom techniques, including triggers, warning signs and coping strategies for students. 

“You can say something over and over, but when a child is worried about where their next meal is coming from, they will not be able to focus on the lesson,” Deck said. “A lot of these children, by the age of 9 years old, have worried about so much; they’ve seen more than I ever will.”

Deck credits Kent State Stark faculty, specifically Lisa Hallaman, associate lecturer of human development, with encouraging her to face difficult situations head-on. 

At Tiqvah, Deck has dinner with her students who receive a hot meal before they are transported home in the evenings. They get homework help and do the basics, like brush their teeth. 

“We spend so much time with these children, we get to know their teachers, their families,” she said. “We get to be a part of their entire lives.”

For Deck, that opportunity lights the way to purpose. 

“I definitely can say that I’ve found my purpose while attending Kent State Stark,” she said. “And that is to help children and families who have experienced trauma in their lives.”

Rising to meet each moment, Deck is setting out to change the world.

She ends her long days with a hug and a “see you tomorrow,” when she’ll greet the children again at the place where hands are held, hair is left messy and the lines blur between educator and friend. 

The place that was named for happy endings: Tiqvah. 

The place that bears the Hebrew name for hope.

Learn more about Tiqvah Hands of Hope by visiting

POSTED: Monday, April 1, 2019 - 8:53am
UPDATED: Monday, April 1, 2019 - 8:59am
Melissa Griffy Seeton