The Kidsbridge Tolerance Center has been in existence since 2008. This unique learning lab format offers an immersive and compelling educational opportunity for young visitors. Empathy, bullying prevention and diversity appreciation awareness are important subjects presented to more than 2500 elementary and middle school youth and their teachers annually. The Kidsbridge Tolerance Center is the first of its kind in the United States offering an UPstander Experience to visiting children and teens. In 2016 we offered a Mobile Outreach option, where Kidsbridge brings the program to schools/classrooms. We expanded our reach by creating a developmentally-appropriate program for children in preschool, Kindergarten and first grade in 2015. In each case, trained group facilitators orchestrate small group discussions and interactive, hands-on activities during each rotation. Kidsbridge offers programs that serve not only urban and suburban youth, but their educators, families and college students as well.
As a parent, I was drawn to Kidsbridge because my kids were telling me about how bullying was prevalent in their schools — and even on their sports teams. I was curious what to tell them in terms of dealing with some of the difficult situations they were encountering. Seeing is believing! Watching the students interacting with one another and the volunteers leading the groups was really inspirational. Talking to some of the teachers during my visit was rewarding as well; they were so pleased to bring their kids to a program like this one. Said one teacher, “We have this terrific base of empathy and respect upon which we can continue to build and expand the lessons about bullying and diversity once back in the classroom. I wish everyone had a chance to visit Kidsbridge!” In the Tolerance Center, all visitors can get the tools and emotional support they need to consider and ultimately make more positive, pro-social choices — choices that can change their daily lives, their futures and our communities in positive ways.
We find proof of their transformational experiences because we are an ‘evidence-based’ program. This may not sound like a big deal, but what is the point of presenting content if the students aren’t retaining any of it? The small groups allow everyone to participate and to draw their own conclusions. Some students learn empowerment through the understanding of how to be an UPstander instead of a bystander. UPstanders learn how to intervene when bullies are present; others learn empowerment strategies when they are a target or victim of bullying — and these skills help break the paralysis and resignation that could otherwise haunt them well into their adult lives.
This is the essential purpose of Kidsbridge programs. We have always focused on creating measurable, real world improvements in character education, diversity appreciation and life skills.
Our programs are assessed by college students attending TCNJ or The College of New Jersey and under the direction of professors Dr. James Graham. We have measured (and therefore seen) statistically significant increases in empathy, stereotype knowledge and other categories as well. These improvements are apparent after spending just four hours in the Tolerance Center, or with Kidsbridge visiting schools and educating youth in their classrooms up to five times via our Mobile Outreach option. This is very exciting news and gives us renewed commitment to furthering the reach and impact of our pro-social teachings.
We could not have been successful each year without support from our corporate, foundations and government sponsors. They are listed on this website. And donations from individuals and groups make everyone feel good.
With your support, all of this can happen! We can empower the next generation to make positive changes in both their lives and changes in the world we share together. Why don’t you come and join us? You know, you can never have too many UPstanders!
Kidsbridge Board Chair