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VOL. 128 | NO. 39 | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Jeremy Park

BRIDGES to Oz

By Jeremy Park

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Last week we focused on a new form of mentorship, aimed at talent development and retention, with the University of Memphis and their LEAD program’s Professional Connection Lunches. This week let us discuss an organization that is uniting and inspiring diverse young people to become confident and courageous leaders committed to community transformation: BRIDGES.

For more than 90 years, BRIDGES has been focused on building personal bridges here in our community by bringing youth and adults from diverse backgrounds together to experience learning that is adventurous, relational and transformative. Their programs are designed to help students discover personal greatness by igniting motivation and self-confidence, developing their creativity and communication skills, and enhancing their ability to make ethical decisions. The learning also focuses on working effectively as a team, practicing leadership and youth-led social change, as well as initiating and leading complex responses to issues that affect their lives and improve the well being of the whole community.

With an indoor rock climbing wall and ropes challenge course high overhead, tying “adventurous” into the programs is easy at their futuristic BRIDGES Center. Inclusion and respect for diversity are at the heart of the “relational” experience with strong friendships forged among children from vastly different backgrounds. “Transformative” describes the results of their Bridge Builders programs, which offer youth in grades 6 through 12 three ways to engage – Connect, Collaborate and Change. For adults, Team BRIDGES offers unique team building experiences to corporations and affinity groups.

The proven benefits for students who participate in these programs range from improved academic achievement to increased concern for the welfare of others and the increased belief that one can make a difference in their community. When you think about what that means for the future of Memphis, it is exciting! The organization currently serves more than 12,000 youth and adults annually, who are learning, leading and helping to lift up our community. Students represent 85 area middle schools and 56 high schools, covering the spectrum of public, charter, parochial, private and home schooled. BRIDGES is serving all races, religions and income levels, and truly helping to chart a new course for the interpersonal dynamics of our city.

Getting engaged with BRIDGES is easy. Their Screen on the Green Gala, “The Wizard’s Ball,” takes place March 23 at 7 p.m. at the BRIDGES Center. Food and themed drinks will be provided by an assortment of well-known local restaurants with special performances by Ballet Memphis and Alexis Grace, as you dance the night away in Oz. Then, look at setting up a team-building session, using their rock wall, ropes course or other experiential learning programs. Take a tour or consider hosting your next party or event at their BRIDGES Center. Learn more by visiting www.bridgesusa.org or reaching out to Melissa Wolowicz at 260-3760 or mwolowicz@bridgesusa.org.

Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).

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