After nearly two decades of working with sexual and gender minority youth, New Avenues for Youth and the SMYRC program know firsthand that the harassment and discrimination they experience commonly lead to adverse long-term impacts on their education, safety, mental health, well-being, and future socioeconomic status.
Bridge 13 is a community education program that shares knowledge and skills to build LGBTQ equity, and is designed to address root causes of discrimination impacting the LGBTQ community and help create system-wide change to improve short- and long-term outcomes for a particularly marginalized population.
Bridge 13 staff work extensively in the local schools with teachers, parents, and students and also with mental health providers, government agencies and local businesses. In addition to education, advocacy is an important part of their work. Seth Johnstone, LGBTQ Community Education Specialist, is part of the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) taskforce – which is a collaboration between healthcare providers and community advocates – assisting OHP and Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) in better implementing health benefits for the transgender community.
Emily Squires, Engagement & Education Specialist, has been working with Faubion School, a K-8 school in NE Portland, leading a Bridge 13 workshop with teachers and administrators last fall and a parent information session this winter. Recently, she held workshops with the entire middle school talking about stereotypes, gender, race, sexuality, and culture. “The Bridge 13 workshops have helped us foster a safer and more supportive environment for all students,” says Klarissa Hightower, an Assistant Principal at Faubion, “and we look forward to continuing this collaboration.”
Participants of our workshops walk away with a foundation of both knowledge and skills to respectfully and directly engage with topics pertaining to LGBTQ equity. “We try to share lots of knowledge and info,” says Emily, “but also practice and discuss ways of making that information accessible in life and actually using it, whether the client is a teacher, student or business owner.”