Children learn best in a safe, secure, inclusive environment. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy to find for Orange County middle and high school students. Over the past twenty years, Orange County schools have experienced bias-related incidents and violence that have prompted administrators and teachers to contact OC Human Relations to help build inter-group communication, cohesion, and a sense of community on their campuses. In response, OC Human Relations created the BRIDGES: School Inter-Group Relations and Violence Prevention Program.
BRIDGES is a multi-year program with the mission of improving inter-group relations by partnering with schools and communities to create, sustain and advocate for safe, inclusive school campuses.
BRIDGES empowers members of the campus community to identify, investigate and address the human relations needs on their campus via trainings and dialogues. They acquire the skills to work with a diversity of people while improving the human relations climate on campus and addressing student success and opportunities. Their worlds grow larger as they are exposed to different people, backgrounds, cultures and experiences.
Design of the BRIDGES Program:
Each BRIDGES School Site partners with a BRIDGES staff person to implement the program. BRIDGES staff work with administrators to form a Task Force – the core group of students and adult allies charged with creating a plan to address the human relations needs of the campus. This group is continually supported by BRIDGES staff via meetings and presentations, members are trained in facilitation, project planning and identifying and prioritizing issues. These skills are used to develop and execute the campus wide human relations plan including new programs and projects that support a safe, welcoming and equitable learning environment and increase opportunities for all students to be successful.
The BRIDGES Program also offers trainings for teachers, parents and community members. Additionally, schools are invited to participate in retreats at the Walk In My Shoes Youth Conferences, BRIDGES youth organizing camps and leadership programs that attract students from across the county.BRIDGES Task Force at South Jr. High School
On September 22, 2015, a team of students, teachers, counseling, staff, administration, parents, and community partners joined together to attend the first Bridges Retreat of the 2015-2016 school year. The purpose of this retreat was to solidify a task force that would partner with South’s PBIS in helping to continue building connections at South Junior High School. In addition to team building, the task force analyzed school climate data and how it relates to student success. The Bridges Task Force plans on looking at this data to see what some possible next steps might be to build connections.