Through our Bridge Builders program we unite and inspire diverse young people to become confident and courageous leaders. Our philosophy is that youth deserve to be respected and acknowledged for the positive difference they can make in Memphis. In the course of a year, we impact 6,000 students in 144 schools and in 57 zip codes. Some people think that because we're a social service agency, we target under-served youth. In fact, the point of Bridge Builders is to bring together youth from all walks of life to get to know one another and appreciate what they have in common and how they may think differently.
I am most proud of the Bridge Builders CHANGE program. CHANGE brings 24 students together to study social problems in Memphis, particularly as it relates to youth, because there are lots of issues that youth identify in schools and in the community that adults might miss. Youth are best equipped to identify youth problems and they work together to analyze the problem and develop a strategy for creating grassroots change. Instead of one-time volunteer service projects, this is a year-long project that addresses much more systemic issues. BRIDGES is unique in that it’s all about youth leading other youth: we believe that once you equip them with good practices and methodologies, they can figure out what to do and act on it. For example, through this program, our Bridge Builders recommended a policy to the Shelby County Schools Board of Education to establish a student congress so that youth voice could be heard. They lobbied every member of the school board and worked closely with the administration to develop the policy. The policy recommendation was passed and now the Bridge Builders are working to make sure it’s implemented.
We received an amazing challenge grant of $10 million to match with $10 million, creating a $20 million endowment, which will ensure that BRIDGES will never go away and that it will always serve the youth in the Memphis area. We are in the home stretch and we would love people to consider donating to the matching grant so we can reach our goal very soon!
We love all of the professional development opportunities through the Alliance that are unique to non-profit work. I personally enjoy the CEO Roundtable because I get the opportunity to interact with my fellow CEOs. When we get together, we compare notes about challenges we have and talk about best practices. It’s a great opportunity to seek advice from colleagues who have had similar experiences. The Alliance is a great resource for affordable and effective trainings and great networking opportunities for your entire staff. Our CFO and Vice President of HR both enjoy participating in their networking groups.