Based in Silver Spring, Community Bridges is a leading locally-focused nonprofit concentrating on the developmental needs of immigrant and minority girls living in poverty in Montgomery County. In May 2017, the Nonprofit Village recognized the work and impact of Community Bridges at its annual “Making a Difference Awards Breakfast” in Bethesda, MD, naming Community Bridges the leading Small Nonprofit for 2017.
Through their programs, Community Bridges reaches immigrant and minority girls between the ages of nine and eighteen, who come from a diverse set of cultural, ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds. These girls come from families who do not meet Montgomery County’s Family Self- Sufficiency Standards.
Community Bridges guides these young girls to gain a better sense of their college and career opportunities through a strong mentorship program and activities focused on establishing links with the community, families, and schools. Girls in this program have a safe space to engage with their identity, develop leadership skills, learn to advocate for themselves, and to plan for their future academic and career goals.
Program activities for girls and their families include: after-school programs; out-of-school community activism; educational and opportunity learning trips; mentoring; and career coaching. These programs serve to connect the girls to their community and to empower them to achieve their greatest potential. Community Bridges girls develop a close link to their communities by being exposed to them through field trips and community service.
Community Bridges’ Family Institute provides an opportunity for parents to learn about themes and issues relevant to their daughters, and enables them to learn about the college application process.
An integrated holistic approach
Community Bridge’s unique approach centers around a holistic strategy, empowering young girls to excel academically, gain leadership skills, and have healthy minds and bodies. Instead of focusing on specific age groups, Community Bridges provides these services to girls from elementary school all the way through their high school, allowing them to maintain a continuum of care throughout these crucial years. The organization’s feeder program results in a high annual retention rate.
This allows Community Bridges to provide support to girls during the significant transitions between elementary and middle school, as well as middle school and high school. These transition periods are particularly significant in ensuring that girls understand the wide range of possibilities they have for college, training, or work, as they enter their formative high school years. Crucially, Community Bridges girls entering high school know that college is a real option for them. Through this mentorship and programmatic support, girls will break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
What also contributes to Community Bridges’ holistic and innovative approach is how the programming brings together community, schools, and families to guide these young women. It seeks out education professionals and counselors, to provide specialized advice and counseling to the population they serve. Community Bridges leverages partnerships with academic institutions like Montgomery College, STEM education partners such as Catylator, and other nonprofit organizations such as MentorPrize to assist with recruiting volunteer mentors.
Overall, Community Bridges has proven to be successful in enabling the young women in its program to gain pride in their identities, awareness of their civic responsibility, and greater confidence as leaders and in working toward their future goals.