As we celebrate today the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wanted to highlight a local organization that is truly a bright spot for our city. The staff and volunteers at BRIDGES, working in a variety of program areas and implementing many creative methods, have been making strides to end inequality and to build bridges toward justice and understanding through education. They have been living and encouraging the very principals that Dr. King preached for over 90 years and counting! Bridges is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart and has played a pivotal role in so many lives.
“Whether it’s two young people from opposite ends of the city and socio-economic spectrum bonding in a Bridge Builders exercise or on the Kickoff Classic football field; a person from Memphis learning that they have the power to be peace makers and stewards of the earth; a middle school student summoning the courage to lead or a group of co-workers learning new ways to be a team; or it’s a high school dropout beaming as she holds her GED certificate or a single mother turning newly-learned skills into a job that pays a living wage…in any and all of these scenarios, there’s a common thread: transformation.”
BRIDGES Vice President of Development, Linda Jackson McNeil is a Bridge and here she reflects on the organization’s mission and the current state of affairs.
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Job Description: I lead, plan and direct all fundraising efforts for BRIDGES including face to face solicitations, direct mail campaigns, special events and endowment efforts.
What lead you to BRIDGES? A mentor of mine told me about a vacancy at BRIDGES, I researched the organization and was impressed with its mission, and here I am almost 10 years later. BRIDGES is one of the most innovative organizations in our community tackling some of the toughest issues in our community with our youth.
What is the mission of BRIDGES and how have you seen it impact our community? BRIDGES builds a community of leaders to advance racial, economic, educational and environmental justice. BRIDGES relies on donations from the community to operate its programs that serve more than 15,000 people each year in the Memphis and Shelby County region.
Just one of the programs that BRIDGES offers is the Bridge Builders program aimed at developing future leaders. Founded by community leader Rebecca Webb Wilson in 1988, what started with bringing together 40 students from Briarcrest and Northside now serves roughly 1,500 high school juniors and seniors annually from more than 50 public, private, parochial, county and home schools across Greater Memphis and has even expanded to Montgomery, Alabama.
Participants build the skills necessary to improve their self-confidence, strengthen their relationships, succeed in school and take action to build a healthy community – all while concentrating on three focus areas – diversity appreciation, community action, and leadership.
As we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, in how does the work of BRIDGES mirror the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Each year BRIDGES brings over 5,000 youth together from different racial, socio-economic and religious backgrounds and challenge them lay aside their individual and cultural differences and work for the benefit of all. At BRIDGES youth are living out Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech every day.
What challenges must we still overcome before we can full realize his dream? The biggest obstacle we must overcome before we realize Dr. King’s dream of equality is the poverty level in our city and nation as a whole. Education is the key to overcoming this challenge. Great strides are being made in our community around education but we have a long way to go.
To learn more about BRIDGES please click here http://www.bridgesusa.org/home