Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bridges for Youth without Support

While in Norman, I stopped by a new member of our mentoring network--Bridges, "Empowering students who live alone to succeed."  Reading on the website or about an organization is never quite the same as visiting. With Debra Krittenbrink, executive director, out of the office, Jen Anderson spoke passionately about Bridges and its students and gave me a tour.  Her description clarifying the range of clients and some of the services is at the bottom.  Of course, view the website. 

One of the quadruplexes for students. Each apartment has a bedroom, kitchen/eating area and bath.

Community organizations and volunteers decorate each apartment so they are pleasant and often chic.

Inside the community building/room were senior portraits of graduates and above them the lettering painted on the wall.  This is a terrific idea! 

Community Room

Rotary built a two-story building that houses the large "family" or community room pictured below, the offices, a computer room, a kitchen where they can cook together, and a laundry room.  Although students can cook in their apartments, they enjoy (and need) family time.

Jen mentioned the digital or technical divide that children living alone have, e.g., many assignments must now be done on computers and emailed directly to the teachers.  Work and library hours are not always compatible so the inhouse computer room is essential.

Once a year for the past two years, alumni come back to share stories, encourage youth at Bridges, and celebrate their bonds and achievements. 

From Jen:

We serve teens and young adults that are homeless and trying to finish their high school education.  These young people come from a variety of circumstances.  Some students are dealing with family homelessness and need a stable home outside of a shelter.  Others have parents who are incarcerated or deceased, and no other stable housing plan is available to them.  Many of our students have dealt with parental substance abuse or parental mental health problems, and are no longer able to live in their family home due to these problems.  Additionally, we also serve young people who have been kicked out of their homes unfairly.  The young people in Bridges receive social services and low-rent housing, along with the guidance to finish high school and make plans for their future.  All students receive comprehensive case management services, a weekly Life Skills class, a community volunteer who serves as a mentor, and educational advocacy.

Jennifer Anderson
We provide intensive support for our students, so we have high expectations of them.  The young people in our program must be enrolled in school and making steady progress toward their high school diploma.  They are required to maintain good attendance and passing grades.  They also must work part-time, and pay a sliding scale rent for their apartments.  Additionally, they must commit to staying drug and alcohol free, and must not allow their friends or family members to bring drugs or alcohol onto our property.  The majority of the young people we work with go on to some form of high education, and we help them with school applications, scholarship applications and federal financial aid forms.

Jennifer Anderson, MSW                               
Director of Social Services
1670 North Stubbeman
Norman, OK 73069

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