Bridges is a nationally-recognized program serving Orange County schools for over 25 years. We work with schools to build campus environments that are respectful of diversity, where ALL students, staff and parents feel safe, welcome and respected. We offer conferences, workshops, camps and internships to support our work in schools across the county.
“The environment on this campus is dramatically different! We see almost no conflict that has racial implications.”– Middle School Principal
Young people 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.
Bridges Program Design:
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 B ridges 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, youth organizing camps and leadership programs that attract students from across the county.
“One thing I will do differently is accept everyone, no matter who they are and what they believe in.”
– High School Student
Bridges is nationally recognized:
- Identified on the White House website as a “Promising Practice”
- Received the Multicultural Diversity Award from the National Association of Counties, the National Association of
Black County Officials and the National Association of Hispanic Officials and Woman Officials of the NACO
- Chosen by the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Education as one of seven programs to prevent
hate crimes in schools and communities.
- Featured in School Safety Journal, Fall 1997
Bridges by the Numbers:
Since 2018, our program has delivered:
- 116 school-wide events focused on creating more safe, inclusive, and equitable schools
- 63 student retreats that brings together 30 students per retreat to discuss human relations and social justice topics with the goal of planning and executive school-wide events/projects on school climate
- 51,803 program touches with students, staff, administrators, parents, and school community members
Bridges Testimonials and Success Stories:
“I am truly grateful for everything that occurred over these past four days. The interactive activities were so engaging to participate in and I felt as though I had room to take space and make space. Gagandeep also helped by being hands-off in certain projects, that way we could be more independent and fully grasp the concepts ourselves. in all, I am extremely appreciative of the thought and work put into this entire experience, for I most definitely won’t forget it.”
“I just want to say I’m going to miss you guys so much and all of Walker. Every Tuesday I looked forward to all of this and you guys make a difference.” – 7th grader Bridges students at Walker JH
At the start off the 20-21 school year DIRHA and Barron Bridge Builders facilitated two implicit bias trainings to 100 + school staff during their Professional Development days. The students bravely shared their personal experiences on campus regarding implicit bias to demonstrate the impact it had on their lives. They received an outpour of praises and support from the staff.
Huntington Beach High School Bridges club led its first virtual campaign in November focusing on destigmatizing mental health and creating safe spaces for students to share their challenges. As well as providing concrete resources to the HBHS community during the pandemic. The Bridges leaders spearheaded the campaign by creating infographics, facilitating workshops, and collaborating with other clubs on campus. As well as partnering with the Hoag Mental Health Center, Connect OC and OCDE to provide workshops.
The FVHS and HBHS Bridges club hosted the first joint virtual weeklong Days of Dialogue which was a huge success!! Bringing a diverse group of presenters discussing Anti-Asian racism, economic justice, mental health and much more for students to learn, engage and connect. The Daily Pilot wrote a story on DOD featuring our student leaders and advisors.
- 43 presenters and 20 presentations
- 40 student Volunteers, 3 Bridges/DIRHA advisors, 4 Admin, 2 OCHR Board Members and 27 teachers joined in
- Approximately 560 students participated
To learn how to create safe schools, please contact the Director of Youth & Education Programs, April Van Ligten, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 714.480-6589.