The Evolution of ourBRIDGE
The Bridge was an afterschool program managed by a for-profit tutoring company located in a strip mall in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. It welcomed 75 students from three Title I schools, most English Language Learners. The doors of this program were closed by its owners in May 2014. By then, The Bridge had established genuine, trusting relationships with the students, their families and schools. Because of the need for high-quality afterschool programs was going to be left unmet, the Program Director, Sil Ganzó, who today is ourBRIDGE Executive Director, along with volunteers, families, and community partners, decided to take over the program and transform it into a 501(c)(3) organization. ourBRIDGE opened its doors for the first time as a non-profit in September 2014, at the same location.
LOVE, EDUCATION, RESPECT & DIVERSITY
For the first couple of years, ourBRIDGE stayed at the same space in Plaza Midwood and worked with the same schools but increased the number of students to 100. This was the discovery era for our organization, as we defined the structure that would allow ourBRIDGE to grow significantly in the years to come (fundraising, website, marketing, board development, staff, employee manual, evaluations, etc). Family support became a second focus of our program. The leadership and the Executive Director became widely recognized as an advocate for refugee and immigrant families. Our LERD values were adopted as the core of everything we do.
With Plaza Midwood gentrification, ourBRIDGE needed to find another home where to welcome our students. Aldersgate came forward with the offer of a 6,000sq ft building on their campus, which we are renting for $1/year! Our new home is BEAUTIFUL, with endless green space, nature trails and enough space for our students to learn and play.
With our new space, we were able to extend programming to include 50 middle schoolers.
In 2018 & 2019 UNCC conducted a two-year research study/evaluation that led to ourBRIDGE to become a Trauma-Informed Care Center and also pushed ourBRIDGE to increase the efforts to family support, which became a crucial component of our programming to support students’ academic and socio-emotional wellbeing. ourBRIDGE’s role in the community increased as the Executive Director and staff became more knowledgeable and outspoken about inequities and gaps in services to support the acculturation of newly-arrived families.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to think of ourselves as something beyond being an afterschool program that provided family support and was present in the community. Between March 2020 and December 2020, ourBRIDGE staff and volunteers distributed nearly 140,000 culturally-responsive dinners and groceries to thousands of families. COVID-19 exacerbated the long-standing inequities and lack of resources available to our families. ourBRIDGE responded with efficiency and resourcefulness. See more of our COVID Response HERE.