Building Bridges started in June of 2007 as a collaborative summer employment program called “Clean Slate.” During that first summer, Clean Slate was able to employ eight at-risk youth at minimum wage and averaged about 24 hours of work per week. The program was targeted to low-income youth with barriers to employment. Of the youth employed 82% had a previous felony or misdemeanor charge and 70% had been involved with the foster care system.
Over the following year additional organizations became involved in the program and in 2008 the program more than doubled in size. Clean Slate was renamed “Building Bridges” to provide some clarity of the organization’s mission, and youth were offered and began receiving a variety of employment and enrichment opportunities. Specifically, youth were paid to participate in money management classes, employment workshops, resume building seminars, educational support services, anger management exercises, and much more in addition to their work experiences. These program changes were influenced by a study in 2007 which showed that at-risk youth engaged in a comprehensive program like Building Bridges were 6 times less likely to become incarcerated, 4 times less likely to become homeless or receive public assistance, and 50% more likely to be employed in the future (Delgado, Fellmeth, Packard, Prozek, & Weichel, 2007).
In 2009, “Professional Services” was added to the Building Bridges name as staff began seeking additional service contracts to cover program costs and create sustainability. Increasing opportunities for year-round youth employment in 2010 required additional marketing initiatives. Today we are consistently seeking to improve services offered for and by our youth employees as our enterprise continues to grow and develop.