Developing the potential of Children & Youth
Youth who are currently at-risk for or experiencing homelessness are often a forgotten population. These youth often experience trauma, poor physical/mental health, stress, developmental delays, and missed educational opportunities.
At Bridges, we surround youth with positive, enriching experiences that can build trust, confidence, and respect for self and others. Volunteers and community partners make it possible for us to offer an array of activities that advance academic skills, self-esteem, job readiness, health and well-being.
Youth Leadership Academy
Serving ages 11-17, our Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) is run in partnership with the Arlington County 4-H Extension Program. The goal is to build confidence and leadership skills through career and college exploration, community service, and health/wellness. Students are taught the principles of leadership, civic engagement, and good sportsmanship, while being exposed to educational and recreational experiences that add to their interpersonal growth and development. High school seniors are paired with mentors to help them through the college application process. Last year, six out of six high school seniors graduated from high school and this fall, all of them started college! This program truly breaks the inter-generational cycle of poverty.
Bridge Kids is our program for children aged 4-10. Supported by dozens of volunteers, this program provides tutoring, mentoring, and help with English language and technology skills. In addition, a wide range of activities is offered throughout the year, from swimming lessons to cooking classes to hiking trips. Our goal is to make sure kids are equipped to succeed in school and are able to develop the social, emotional, and cognitive competencies they need to meet the challenges of adolescence and achieve the bright futures they deserve.
Now in its fourth year, Bridges Runs! is our youth running program. Participants meet weekly for workouts that introduce them to healthy and active lifestyles, and each youth is paired with an adult “buddy” runner who serves as a mentor. Together, they train and run in an average of six 5k races throughout the year. The program inspires and motivates young people to work hard, take pride in their achievements, and experience the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal. The races are a chance for youth to push themselves physically – which often serves as a catalyst for personal transformation. With each kilometer, participants feel the thrill of success, no matter where they place in the race.
Skilled volunteers, many with advanced degrees, pair up one-to-one or in small groups to tackle homework assignments or difficult subject matter. Since over half of our youth are foreign-born, tutors and mentors also focus in on specialized techniques for improving English language skills. The intent is to customize academic support to individual needs.
Support for Kids in Transition (SKIT) was created to provide some fun for the children and youth residing in Bridges’ emergency shelter, Sullivan House. Volunteers organize activities that might include birthday parties, crafting, or playful competitions. The SKIT “rec room” also offers computers, books, and board games. Our staff also help coordinate field trips to various educational and recreational sites around Metro DC.
A Refreshing Way to Give Back! The centerpiece of Bridges’ summer youth program for many years, the Lemonade Stand makes an appearance at sites throughout Arlington all summer long. Our youth learn good decision-making, a strong work ethic, and salesmanship through promotion, prep/cleanup and management of their own lemonade stand. At the same time, they are taught valuable financial literacy skills through a series of five financial workshops geared to kids.
At the end of the summer, half of the money raised is used for participants to open their very first savings account and the other half supports a field trip to a theme park. Both events are equally exciting!