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 a “transformational experience” to visiting children and teens. Trained group leaders 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 visiting 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 as a victim that 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 The College of New Jersey and under the direction of professors Dr. James Graham and Julie Hughes. 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 Center. This is very exciting news and gives us renewed commitment to furthering the reach and impact of this unique program.
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.
We have expanded our programs to include anti-bullying programs for preschool, Kindergarten, first and second grades — besides our existing third through eighth grade experiences. All programs are developmentally-appropriate for each age group. Kidsbridge aspires to continue to expand our reach with our life skills programs and bring more youth to the Tolerance Center as well. And responding to requests from educators, our next step is to bring our program to your school, by presenting to your students in your classrooms.
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 can never have too many UPstanders!
Kidsbridge Board Chair