Celebrating 20 years (1996-2016) of encouraging empathy and creating UPstanders
Kidsbridge is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing imaginative, hands-on programs focusing on: bullying & cyberbullying prevention; tolerance, diversity appreciation & respect for all persons; individual and group empowerment; conflict resolution & empathy; sensitivity to persons with disabilities; understanding of LGBT persons; changing bystanders into UPstanders; and grassroots youth activism.
Since 1996, Kidsbridge has sought to fill the large voids that exist in the learning of life skills, character education and diversity appreciation with knowledge, aspiration and empowerment. Kidsbridge programs include the Kidsbridge Tolerance Center and the Kidsbridge Life Skills Programs.
The Kidsbridge Tolerance Center is the only youth-focused tolerance center in the United States. It is located in the Ewing Senior & Community Center in Ewing, NJ (beginning in July 2014.) From March 2006 through June 2014, it was known as “the Museum” and was generously housed in Forcina Hall on the campus of The College of New Jersey/TCNJ in Ewing, NJ.
Each year more than 2,200 students and 200 educators visit Kidsbridge, learning strategies to better deal with the challenging character education and diversity appreciation issues facing today’s youth. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a main focus of Kidsbridge programs, as are providing youth with strategies to combat bullying and activities focusing on diversity appreciation and respect.
The Center includes components of the exhibit “Face to Face: Dealing with Prejudice and Discrimination,” created by the Chicago Children’s Museum and purchased by Kidsbridge in 2006. In an open and interactive environment (also known as a learning lab), trained Kidsbridge staff, TCNJ college students and professors, retired educators and other adult volunteers meaningfully interact with visiting elementary and middle school students and educators. Kidsbridge also offers an early childhood education anti-bullying/anti-teasing program for children in preschool, Kindergarten and first grades (mobile to their schools). New in 2016 is our Mobile Outreach program for third through sixth grades. This option enables students to participate in our UPstander Experience in the comfort of their own classrooms. Visit the Educators’ Portal on our website for more information about our ‘evidence-based’ and developmentally-appropriate programs.
To date, more than 21,000 youth and educators have been educated by Kidsbridge.
In existence since 2003, the Kidsbridge Life Skills Programs provide targeted instruction to smaller groups of at-risk elementary and middle schoolers in Trenton. Skills are taught in several areas to assist youth to function independently and to develop sound decision-making and problem-solving techniques by providing a well-balanced, educational mentoring program focusing on each student’s individual needs. Education, life skills, socialization, family, recreation, community linkages, decision-making and judgment are the focus of this program, which is presented by trusted adult role models and current TCNJ education and psychology majors who act as mentors. This weekly program’s goal is to educate youth using hands-on demonstrations and targeted exercises designed to reinforce positive social experiences in a safe, non-judgmental, optimistic environment of mutual support.
Conveying these precepts at an early age is a critical, vital step in fostering empathy, self-esteem and pro-social life skills for the future. Prejudice and discrimination, stereotyping and name-calling all must be dealt with daily by today’s kids. With bullying and cyberbullying becoming ever more prevalent in the last several years, the alarming increase in youth suicides and the challenges of verbal and physical bullying, teaching empowerment and peaceful conflict resolution skills are imperative as well.
Kidsbridge prides itself on staying current with issues and challenges that educators face with their students. Appreciating diversity has recently been the focus of news stories and social media videos, and Kidsbridge has created activities to best address that subject. While creating UPstanders is at the core of what Kidsbridge programs are all about, focusing on social-emotional learning and teaching pro-social skills remains critically important as well.